Community News: The Haitian Roundtable, The New York Women’s Foundation and New York Carib News

I attended a Forum for the 2009 Candidates for The Office of New York City Public Advocate. The Candidates were afforded the opportunity to state their platforms. The Forum was co-sponsored by the Haitian Roundtable, the New York Women’s Foundation and The New York Carib News. The Haitain Roundtable was formed by Yves-Merry Telemaque, made up of several founding members such as Daphne Leroy, Jeffrey Gardene and Patricia Beauvais, to name a few. The organization is comprised of Haitian-American professionals from different sectors, including law, finance, healthcare and government. Their goal is to “heighten awareness of Haitians as an emerging constituency among New York’s key stakeholders and institutions through coalition building, networking forums and events.”

Ana Oliveira is the President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation. Since 1987, this organization has been dedicated to serving the needs of low-income women. Twenty-eight years ago, Karl B. Rodney and Faye A. Rodney founded The New York Carib News. This weekly paper is a source for news for the Caribbean Diaspora.

The Office of the NYC Public Advocate is very important, but relatively unknown to the average citizen. Currently the position is held by Betsy Gotbaum. Here’s an overview of this position:

The Public Advocate is responsible for reporting the failure of any City agency or official to comply with the New York City Charter. The office also monitors the effectiveness of the City’s public information and education efforts about citywide initiatives. The Public Advocate presides at meetings of the City Council and is a member of all Council committees. The Public Advocate is also Trustee on New York City’s largest retirement system, with over $40 billion in assets and holds one of six full votes.

The five Candidates were given this question to answer, How are you going to diversify city agencies, for example the Fire Department? Below is a summary of answers delivered by the candidates:

Eric Goia, the Democratic Candidate stated “I am going to put together a diverse coalition. The job of the Public Advocate is to seek justice. There is subtle discrimination and you have to be honest about it and doing real recruitment, make sure that the exams are fair for example the revelation that the test given to become a firefighter is not even written by Firefighters…” He went on to state that he is not for the Term Reversal and that the term limit should have been decided by referendum. He feels the city should make more sacrifices for the kids by extending school hours to five o’clock and supplying children in not so well-off neighbors exposure to the arts, just as kids in the wealthy neighborhoods. He also touched upon racial profiling stating “It has to be through training recruitment that we address this issue, but you also need statistics metrics done every month. By measuring the frequency of profiling you can control the problem.”

Alex T. Zablocki, Republican Candidate stated “I feel the agencies should be more diverse, we are a city of that, it’s also the right way to do it…made up of Italians, African Americans….” He further stated that he wants to help small businesses from becoming displaced due to new developments by adding a new tax incentive to owners and a rent incentive. He also discussed the issue of high property taxes and how NY is no longer affordable. He wants to address this issue as Public Advocate. Alex stated that the most important power of the office to effect change is being able to listen. It you use the office effectively then you can bring issues to the forefront and investigate. Alex also believes the office should be decentralized with a separate budget and subpoena power.

Norman Siegel, Esq., Democratic Candidate stated “I will bring a Civil Rights mind to the position. I would bring about racial integration among the agencies by setting goals and setting a timetable. I will sue for any violation of the 14th Amendment if an agency does not change. If you can show any pattern of discrimination that existed in the past then you must have Affirmative Action.” Norman further stated “I will create an institute of advocacy, you don’t need to be an attorney to be an advocate. So many people don’t know who their Public Advocate is, so I would have town hall meetings about issues like Stop & Frisk. I would raise questions others would not.”

Honorable Bill De Blaiso, Democratic Candidate stated “It’s amazing how the media does not bring certain issues to the forefront. I would use the legislative system and economic power to make change. I would put together a package to get actual dollars to strengthen women businesses. I am deeply concerned about issues concerning children and abuse, need to create preventive services. Would also like to reform the Family Court System, the process is too lengthy and unfair.”

Honorable Mark Green, Democratic Candidate stated “I am running because the city is in trouble. I would run the Public Advocate Office like a law firm, finding out people’s needs and then assisting them. Carol, an audience member, from the New York Women’s Foundation asked How are you going to help immigrant women? He responded “Before any legislation is cut we should do an impact statement and do everything possible to create jobs, work training programs should be created. I like the idea of giving small companies micro loans.”

To learn more about the 2009 Candidates for The Office of the NYC Public Advocate, click on the above links. Be sure to look out for more events being hosted by the Haitian Roundtable.

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