Thursday, April 9, 2009

Politicos are Just Public Servants for Sake of Recovery

US Representatives Yvette Clarke and Ed Towns packed Brooklyn Academy of Music with curious, hopeful Brooklynites, Saturday, April 4, 2009. The draw was learning what New Yorkers stand to gain from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—a/k/a Obama Money. Using the town hall model, news commentator Errol Louis emceed the cavalcade of satisfied Democratic leaders, deputy mayors, and state agency officials. Two key messages throughout the run down of agencies, funding allocations, Web sites and point persons were the time for relying on the government to handle things was over; now everyone is required to participate in the recovery. Most speakers described themselves as public servants.

State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said, “New York State will receive $24.6 billion that will keep needed programs operating and create 80,000 new jobs.” The billions is channeled through several public agencies and administered by various offices within each agency. The concern is moving the money from accounting spreadsheets and policy memos to shovel ready projects and programs that employ and serve New Yorkers as quickly as possible.

Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs explained the Mayor’s Office placed the streams of recovery funds into “five thematic buckets:” Safety Net, Infrastructure/Energy Efficiency, Public Safety, Neighborhood Stabilization and Economic and Workforce Development. Gibbs identified the streams that went into each bucket and the deputy mayor and his chief of staff who is accountable. In short order, Errol Louis had each deputy mayor, state agency representative tell their funding allocations and Web sites to learn more about the programs.

Some funding winners include child care, Head Start, Workforce 1 Centers, repairs to public housing, low income housing tax credits and MTA station capital projects. However, the city received only $400,000 for the arts. Representing NYS Council on the Arts, Danny Simmons questioned this miniscule allotment; given the city’s art scene has been an economic engine. Simmons pointed to Brooklyn’s newfound attractiveness is due to the abounding art and culture. Simmons sadly added the money came too late to save the Dance Theater of Harlem which recently closed its doors.

Whether it is a coincidence or divine order that so many African Americans have critically powerful positions in government during this economic downturn shall be revealed. As it stands the US President’s father is a Kenyan. New York’s Governor is African-American. New York State Senate Leader is African American. One US Representative’s family hails from maroon country in Jamaica. The other US Representative is a North Carolina-born African American.
To stay on top of the Obama Money’s dispersal and outcomes in New York State and the city, visit the following Web sites: www.nyc.gov/StimulusTracker; http://www.recoveryny.gov/ and www.arra.org.

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