Political Roundup: Ban the Box/Decoding Steve Perry’s Wall Street Propaganda/DCF Plantation Report

This column appears in the December 5 – 12 edition of the Hartford News… Last week Kennard Ray gave up his new job as Mayor Pedro Segarra’s Deputy Chief of Staff after corporate media reports surfaced about his legal history. The Working Families Party had nothing but praise for Ray’s job performance while he worked for them. Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura hired former governor John Rowland as the city’s economic development advisor two years after he was released from federal prison. Rowland pleaded guilty to the charge of depriving the public of honest service, a felony, in 2004. Tom Foley is the likely Republican candidate for governor despite his past. Corporate media outlets started asking questions about Ban the Box, the Hartford ordinance which is supposed to protect formerly incarcerated individuals and others with legal histories from discrimination by employers. BTB is not the problem. The problem is politics as usual at City Hall. I worked on BTB in Hartford and Norwich. Ray is the person who BTB was designed to help. The Hartford ordinance includes a conditional job offer provision which stipulates that a job applicant who is deemed the most qualified must be offered the position prior to a security background check. An individual’s legal history should not result in disqualification if the conviction is unrelated to the job (e.g. a bank robber can’t be a bank security guard). During the 2013 legislative session the Community Party attempted to introduce an amendment restoring the conditional job offer language to the state BTB law; the provision was removed by lawmakers prior to the bill’s passage in 2010 (the Norwich ordinance was also watered down in this manner). Labor and Public Employees Committee co-chairs Sen. Catherine Osten and Rep. Peter Tercyak and committee member Rep. Brandon McGee refused to meet with us to discuss our amendment.
NBC Connecticut reported that Segarra told them going forward, he would not offer an applicant a job until after his office conducts a background check. Segarra was also quoted as saying he was considering asking City Council to “modify the 2010 ordinance for clarity.”  Tuesday I spoke with Maribel La Luz, Segarra’s Communications Director. La Luz said that Segarra will not pursue amending BTB or his own hiring policy, and that the NBC Connecticut report is inaccurate.  La Luz didn’t disagree with my opinion that Segarra made a mistake by announcing Ray’s hiring prior to conducting a background check. La Luz said that Ray’s legal history is not the reason why he did not get the job as Deputy Chief of Staff and that Segarra did not ask Ray to withdraw his application. Ray has not answered questions about Segarra during interviews.
A Better Way Foundation, the same organization that let the state Ban the Box law be rendered useless in 2010 by allowing the conditional job offer provision to be removed, held a rally in support of Ray on Monday (I’m a former ABWF volunteer). This farce is indicative of why the status quo remains in effect in communities of color. LaResse Harvey, the same person who allowed the teeth to be pulled from the BTB ordinance in Norwich in addition to the state law, is now railing against the injustice inflicted on Ray. I stopped working with ABWF because of their self-serving strategy of pursuing the strongest version of BTB in Hartford and New Haven, where they knew there would be strong support for the ordinance, while they allowed the toothless version to pass in Norwich and at the State Capitol, where BTB faced strong opposition. Community residents in Norwich who were supporting BTB had no input on the decision to remove the conditional job offer language. ABWF scored another grant check thanks to the Norwich & state “victories” while formerly incarcerated individuals who live outside of Hartford and New Haven were stuck with a useless law. Some of the same people who have jumped on the Ray bandwagon knew about CP’s campaign to restore the conditional job offer provision to the state BTB law, yet they stood by and did nothing. Gatekeepers such as Harvey and ABWF executive director Lorenzo Jones are leading people of color in circles. At least 95% of incarcerated individuals will be released. A strong BTB state law would give these people a fair shot at becoming productive members of society, which would enhance public safety.
Last but not least, in my opinion I think it’s pathetic that the same “activists” and “journalists” who went after the West End Civic Association for attacking a food pantry and cheered me on when I talked about my history with WECA are now silent while I speak on ABWF’s hypocrisy. WECA is an easy target; they’ve been an elitist organization for years. Don’t talk tough about how you don’t mince words if you don’t have the guts to take on anybody, at any time. I confronted ABWF about BTB on live TV at City Hall a couple of years ago and got no response from anyone in the building, including ABWF. I believe that ABWF’s actions regarding BTB are worse than what WECA did, because ABWF claims to be advocates for racial justice. WECA never pretended to be that… We will keep an eye on this story. Check out our Resources section for the link to an informational guide on BTB.
Last week Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry fired up his Twitter spin machine as he denied both the effects of poverty on children and the tremendous profits being generated by the charter school industry. Perry totally avoided any discussion of the racist impact of his repugnant attack on public sector jobs, the largest source of employment for Black men and women living in this country. Perry declared that citing the need to eradicate poverty as a component of improving Black and Latino students’ school performance “hurts kids.”  Perry said, “Using the poverty argument to explain failure, implies that poor people are less intelligent or less capable of learning. That’s offensive.”  Perry’s Wall Street masters have obviously coached him in the art of using a wall of words to respond to facts that they don’t like, which provides them with cover to pursue their right-wing corporatist agenda. 
Last week I included a link to an NPR report on the effect of poverty on children in Philadelphia. The following excerpt summarizes the actual message. 
“Studies show that in some cases, kids living in poverty are more than two years behind their privileged counterparts. They’re more likely to have fewer books in the home, have more health problems and miss more school days. Many kids come to school hungry, and then they can’t focus and learn.
‘They can’t concentrate as well, and children who are food insecure don’t perform as well on math and language arts tests. They don’t do as well in school,’ says Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University’s School of Public Health.
“Chilton says that at the height of the Great Recession, nearly half of all families with kids in this city reported ‘food hardship’ — or increased hunger. She says the research is overwhelming: Poverty and hunger undermine children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.
‘They also have a hard time getting along with their peers and with their teachers,’ she says, ‘and so it’s strongly related to how well a child can do in school.’
Some parents in the swaths of concentrated poverty in North and West Philadelphia consistently don’t have enough (money) for food, heat, rent, running water or electricity. That often means their kids can’t do homework, think or read in a comfortable place. Neighborhood violence and crime only add to their sense of vulnerability.” You can read or listen to the entire NPR report here. http://www.npr.org/2013/11/21/246413432/weighing-the-role-of-poverty-in-philadelphia-s-schools
Contrary to Perry’s preposterous claim, no one is saying that these children are stupid. The premise of the NPR report is that students who live in areas of concentrated poverty obviously face external stressors which distract them from learning. Perry’s Wall Street masters desperately want to minimize the poverty and racial economic disparity issue, because an examination of socioeconomic factors which lead to poor school performance contradicts their claim that “failing” schools and unionized teachers are totally at fault. The response from Perry on Twitter was that poverty is a cop-out used by the left. One of his sycophants added that the poverty issue is too big and addressing it won’t help children to perform better in school. In other words, poverty is a problem that Black and Latino kids should get over already; they should ignore minor annoyances like hunger and having no heat or electricity and just hit the books. Perry also tried to distort the facts about the profits that are being generated by the charter school industry. Perry said, “Magnets, charters & online schools make less than 20% of all schools. Stop trying to pin decades of failure on the urban success stories.”  Of course Perry’s claim does not address the facts about how much dough Wall Street charter school investors are raking in. For those who missed my last column, Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez exposed the multiple tax breaks that investors exploit and the subsequent huge profits (e.g. doubling a $10 million investment in seven years). The result is public dollars being funneled to Wall Street coffers. You can read Gonzalez’ DN report here. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/7/juan_gonzalez_big_banks_making_a and his New York Daily News column here. http://nycrubberroomreporter.blogspot.com/2010/01/juan-gonzales-on-nyc-charter-school.html  Perry’s propaganda is a prime example of how Wall Street uses Blacks to exploit low income urban communities. 
This week we’ll share an update from Joanna Iovino on activist Cornell Lewis, who was terminated in retaliation for speaking out about structural racism at the Department of Children and Families. Folks who are interested in supporting Cornell can make a donation to his legal defense fund; details on the fund follow the update. Check out Cornell’s DCF Plantation blog.  http://www.dcfplantation.blogspot.com/




                       Letter from CT Truth Force Force
When I first came to Hartford, I decided that it was time  for me to go from talking about injustice with friends and family (letting those  conversations wither away and die eventually) to taking action. And one of the  first people who came to my attention was Minister Cornell Lewis. I sent him a  message, asking if I could set up a meeting with him, and after a series of  questions designed to prove my mettle, he agreed to my request. We ended up  meeting in a Dunkin Donuts with some other members of an activist group, people  who had worked with Minister Lewis before. We talked about the racism  experienced by employees of color at CJTS (particularly Black male employees)  and composed a letter to DCF as the CT Truth Force.
We sent ample warning to  DCF and CJTS management that if our concerns were not addressed, there would be  a series of actions taken against the agency. We hand delivered our message to  DCF commissioner Joette Katz’ office. We stood out in front of CJTS on a cold  day with bullhorns and signs to show our concern. DCF and CJTS refused to  address our complaints, just as they have repeatedly refused to address the  complaints of racism that emanate frequently from CJTS employees. We had an  eloquent argument…. We asked how CJTS employees of color could act as positive  role models for the children they were charged with caring for if they were  being oppressed by management. We cited statistics that proved that disciplinary  procedures in place were disproportionately harsh on men of color. We had  support from the community, from former and current CJTS employees, and we  even were able to have a hearing held at the Legislative Office Building. But,  alas, it was all to no avail. Rather than addressing the concerns of Minister  Lewis and other CJTS employees, the management decided to fire the man. They  took advantage of an opportunity to exploit an incident at CJTS to put the man  out of work. But, Minister Lewis is not a quitter. He is still committed to  fighting for justice for CJTS employees. The CT Truth Force decided to  compose a petition to William Rosenbeck, CJTS Superintendent, Joette Katz, DCF  Commissioner and Dannel Malloy, CT Governor. We gathered the signatures of  concerned community members, and sent the petition to the offices of all three  of those designees. What has the response been?? Silence. Once again, DCF  has proved that it does not hear nor does it feel obligated to address their  employees concerns. Pretty typical, but we will not be dissuaded.
                     Help with Legal Defense Fund
The Department of Children and Families (DCF)  has an unlimited checkbook funded by taxpayers money. DCF monies are used to  support biased policies and silence employees that speak against discrimination.  That is why I am asking people to donate to this defense fund, in order to pay  for legal services to combat what DCF is doing to people like me. All funds will  go directly to legal costs. Please  follow the link below to make a donation.  ~ Cornell Lewis
 Stay tuned for info on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out CP’s Stop Racial Profiling – Obey the Law! Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/PennAct  We will introduce our Trayvon Martin Act in 2014. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/support-the-trayvon-martin-act/535126163203901   Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
NBC Connecticut report on Kennard Ray withdrawing as a candidate to be Mayor Pedro Segarra’s Deputy Chief of Staff: 
Community Party Ban the Box amendment:
Ban the Box informational guide:
United for a Fair Economy report on racial economic disparity:
David Samuels
Community Party

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