Where is our Myriad of Programs?
Isn’t Speaker Quinn’s dad a veteran?
In yesterday’s NY Daily News article about City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s first year as Speaker, Councilman Charles Barron is quoted as saying: "Instead of being the 'People's House', the Council almost has become the 'Mayor's House.” While you may or may not agree with the quote, there are a lot of people that do.
While a majority of New Yorker’s seem to believe that veteran issues are a federal issue (they are not), when Speaker Quinn came in, there were many within the veteran’s community that believed we had a true supporter and advocate. Ms. Quinn, along with former Councilmember Margarita Lopez was at the forefront of fighting to keep the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Hospitals open during the VA CARES process. It was noted that Ms. Quinn’s dad is a veteran and her partner’s father was a veteran as well. When she became Speaker she continued the veterans committee and made it a standing committee.
So what happened? Well, as Councilman Barron stated – it became the Mayor’s house. To put it plainly, veteran issues became the Mayor’s issue and instead of showing leadership and forcing the Mayor to action, Ms. Quinn took her cues from the Mayor and acted more like Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman! Last month I received an e-mail from Speaker Quinn. While I realize that this e-mail probably did not come from the Speaker herself and was probably written by someone in her office, I found it interesting that it was sent to me in the middle of December and references a Press Conference and Rally that veterans held at City Hall back in July of 2006, when money was not included in the budget to create veteran resource centers for veterans in New York City. This letter reminded me of the comments the Mayor and Speakers office made in the NY Daily News after the press conference:
“The city offers "a myriad of programs," including property tax exemptions and veterans preference in city hiring"
So city veterans find themselves wondering: “Where is our myriad of programs?” What happened to the leadership?
Speaker Quinn talks about her selection of members to the city’s Veterans Advisory Board. She states: "I assure you my office is working with all practical speed to select individuals that will best serve the interests of the veterans community." This contradicts public statements that Councilman Hiram Monserrate, chair of the council’s veterans committee made stating that he submitted names for the Veterans Advisory Board to the Speaker at least six months ago. Did the individuals Councilman Monserrate select not best serve the interests of the veterans community? The Mayor and Speakers last appointments to the board finished their 3-year terms 20 months ago (and counting) and they have not moved on appointing or re-appointing any members. Why?
But the kicker was the fact that Mayor signed legislation in 2006 requiring the Veterans Advisory Board to annually create a public report on what issues the veterans community has and what the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) has done to address these issues. But since the Mayor’s Veterans Affairs office only has three people in it, a limited budget (funded mostly by the State) and does nothing for veterans but acts as a messenger for the Mayor, picture a city veterans advisory board writing a report stating that MOVA has done nothing. What would that be saying – to veterans? – To the public? It is more plausible, and many veterans believe this - that the Mayor’s office asked the Speaker not to select any veterans to the Veterans Advisory Board. So instead of showing leadership, Ms. Quinn took her cues from the Mayor and turned her back on this issue also.
It is interesting to note that Speaker Quinn's letter offers as proof of being pro-active on veteran issues the Extended Benefits Package for city employees serving in the armed forces. The truth however is that this issue would never have come to the attention of the Mayor and other elected officials if it wasn't for people within the NYPD, FDNY and other city agencies who were fighting the departments/agencies that they are/were in to do the right thing. Furthermore, the truth is the Mayor and the Speaker have not fully and thoughtfully worked to get this issue resolved. Currently there are several issues that have not been dealt with and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services has refused to deal with them. So once again, we see the Speaker taking her cues from the Mayor, offering it as proof of being pro-active on veteran’s issues and saying we completed the mission when in fact the “mission” is far from completed.
The bottom line is that while I appreciate someone writing the “boilerplate” letter on behalf of the Speaker, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of veteran’s issues. This coming Thursday, January 11, 2007 there will be a Press Conference at City Hall at 12 noon where veterans will once again try and get funding into the budget to create veteran resource centers throughout the five boroughs. No matter what you believe about this war, the bottom line is that we must help our veterans when they returning to our city. Our newest veterans need help with housing, education, jobs and healthcare. They need knowledge of the array of programs that are available to them on a Federal, State and most importantly the city level. They do not need public statements honoring them and then hiding behind funding issues or using them as a political backdrop. That is a disservice to all those who have served.
Post new comment