Political Roundup: Fight for 15 / Mayor Pedro Segarra, Kennard Ray and a “Higher Standard”

This column appears in the March 6 – 13 edition of the Hartford News… I’ll be a guest on the WPKN 89.5 FM (http://www.wpkn.org/) Between the Lines program with host Scott Harris on Monday, March 10th @ 9:30 pm to talk about the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act…  Big shout out to Fox CT anchor / token person of color Laurie Perez, who promoted the toothless state racial profiling law on her Real Story public affairs program while denying CP equal time, despite our private conversation where I explained to her how the police and CT lawmakers have been trying to kill our legislation for the past 3 years. I’m not surprised (she does work for Fox News) but I’m always disgusted when a person of color chooses to serve the ruling class instead of the urban community; this problem is also a component of the Kennard Ray story.

Yesterday President Obama spoke at Central Connecticut State University as part of his campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Last Sunday the Fox CT Capitol Report program included a debate on the proposed minimum wage hike, following Gov. Dannel Malloy’s comments to the national media on this issue. Malloy, who two years ago would not support a minimum wage increase in this state even after the bill was gutted, spoke with election year gusto to the national press about the need to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. City Council President Shawn Wooden and Democratic Party strategist Tanya Meck repeated the party line that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will lift people out of poverty, which is a lie. The poverty line is based on a formula from the 1950’s which used the cost of purchasing food items considered staples at the time to set the poverty threshold. An updated study of poverty by David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, finds that a single mother with one child would need a wage of $48,000 per year to maintain a “modest, secure standard of living.”  http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11510#.UwodJG6AfxE.twitter  This study supports the argument for a $15.00 minimum wage. 
Capitol Report panelist Jodi Latina, a Republican, said that she supports raising the minimum wage to $15.00 in exchange for tax breaks for small businesses. My problem with Latina’s concept is that the current definition of “small business” is bogus. A 2012 report on Bush-era tax cuts by Rebecca Theiss, a federal budget policy analyst for EPI, explains this deception. “The way that small businesses are defined for tax purposes has been put to use in this debate in a manner that is misleading. The default definition of ‘small business’ in the tax debate can often identify many entities that are neither small nor even businesses… Claims that raising the top two marginal tax rates will stifle small business growth are unfounded, largely relying on overly broad and misleading definitions of small businesses. Policies intended to support actual small (and new) businesses should focus on expansionary fiscal policy (for example, through fiscal stimulus) and a stronger social safety net. If anything, reductions in the top tax rate have been associated with an increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution and not necessarily associated with productivity growth.” You can read the full report here. http://www.epi.org/publication/ib349-small-business-top-marginal-rates-filers/ I would support Latina’s compromise after the definition of “small business” is amended to apply to businesses that are truly small. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a Democrat, is pushing for a $15.00 minimum wage in his city. http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/05/news/seattle-minimum-wage/index.html   If the Democrats were sincere about lifting people out of poverty, they would support the Fight for 15 movement.  https://twitter.com/fightfor15 The party which claims to be a friend of the poor is just using poverty as a political football. Obama and Malloy, who both have avoided talking about poverty since they were elected, are now tossing the word around every day. Don’t believe the hype, voters.
The AFSCME Local 318 Workplace Bullying Committee was formed for the purpose of educating members about workplace bullying and its effects. We’ll have more info in the coming weeks on the committee’s political action campaign…. Connecticut Valley Hospital employee and AFSCME union steward John Hollis reports that CVH has stopped responding to our joint Freedom of Information Act requests. What is CVH trying to hide? Stay tuned…
Last November when Mayor Pedro Segarra accepted Kennard Ray’s withdrawal from the Deputy Chief of Staff position, he issued this statement. “Sadly, we must accept Mr. Kennard Ray’s withdrawal for the position of Deputy Chief of Staff after learning information that was not initially disclosed. Mr. Ray is a qualified individual with solid references from former supervisors and community leaders. However public servants, especially those in leadership positions, must be held to a higher standard.” Last Friday the Hartford
Internal Audit Commission released their report on Segarra’s hiring practices. The report found that Segarra had hired several appointees without any kind of screening; no background check, no drug tests, no job application, nothing. Let’s just cut to the chase, as it is pretty obvious how Segarra got himself in this jam.
First the Segarra administration announced Ray’s hiring prior to performing a background check. The corporate media then aired sensationalized reports about Ray’s legal history. I contacted Maribel La Luz, Segarra’s Communications Director, after the story broke. La Luz said Segarra acknowledged that his office made a mistake by announcing the hire prior to conducting the background check. Ray had done nothing wrong. The Hartford Ban the Box ordinance stipulates that a city job applicant does not have to discuss their legal history during the interview process. The whole point of BTB is to provide a level playing field for formerly incarcerated individuals and others with legal histories.
When the corporate media confronted Segarra with their findings about Ray, he had two choices. He could have admitted that his office jumped the gun by announcing Ray’s hiring but that Ray came highly recommended from the Connecticut Working Families Party, where he was the organization’s legislative and political director. After checking out Ray’s legal history, Segarra could have cited BTB as the reason why he was going to stick with his decision to hire Ray, who has clearly turned his life around. Segarra could have talked about how BTB was crafted specifically for individuals such as Ray, who should be held up as an example to young men of color in Hartford of what can happen if they strive to overcome their past mistakes. Segarra could have cited the city’s Black / Latino unemployment rate as a reason why BTB is so important to disenfranchised young males in urban neighborhoods.  
Instead, Segarra hit the panic button. He allowed Ray to withdraw from the position. The official story is that Segarra did not ask Ray to give up the job, but Segarra clearly wanted Ray to go away. Ray has not publicly discussed Segarra and was the focal point of a City Hall rally where activists called for his reinstatement. Now Segarra looks like the ultimate hypocrite since the audit report findings have been released. Most elected officials are so obsessed with playing the political game that their actions in situations such as this defy common sense. Segarra threw Ray under the bus for the sake of political expediency. Now it’s Segarra who’s wearing self-inflicted tire marks. He can’t talk his way out of this one; it is what it is. I contacted La Luz via email to get Segarra’s response to the auditor’s report and the obvious contradiction of his explanation for unhiring Ray. I did not get a response. The simple fact is that the “higher standard” Segarra used as an excuse to give Ray the boot obviously does not apply to Segarra’s cronies. Shameful.
The end result is that Segarra has squandered a golden opportunity to show that his support of BTB wasn’t just lip service. He has egg on his face the size of an omelet. None of this is surprising to me. This debacle is an example of why this city, state and country are in the toilet. Politicians are serving their masters in the ruling class and themselves, instead of serving the people. Their primary objective is to look like they’re doing the right thing, instead of actually doing what’s right. I think it’s time for Segarra to hold himself to a “higher standard.”  Let’s see if  “community leaders” such as A Better Way Foundation policy director LaResse Harvey, a Segarra ally, and Democratic Party politicians such as Rep. Brandon McGee who say that they “Stand with Kennard” will ever speak up. There hasn’t been a peep from Harvey or McGee on their social media pages about the audit report and its obvious connection to Ray. McGee is now hiding his tweets from me since I talked about his silence on Twitter. I don’t need to see your tweets, McGee. Your behavior tells me all that I need to know. 

ACTION ALERT (Updated): Stop Racial Profiling & Workplace Bullying in Connecticut!

We need folks to call and email legislators in their districts and urge them to support the Trayvon Martin Act. Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp   You can read our Trayvon Act bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355
Contact the Labor and Public Employees Committee and tell them to include CP’s Safe Work Environment Act amendments with any workplace bullying legislation introduced in 2014. Our amendments remove the legal requirement for an employee to prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Workers should not have to prove psychological or physical harm. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. In lieu of a complete workplace bullying bill in 2014 we want an amendment which has been introduced in Nevada by State Sen. Richard Segerblom to be added to the state discrimination law (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/workplace-bullying-report-2/). This would be done with the understanding that a complete Safe Work Environment Act bill including the aforementioned provisions will be introduced in 2015. Municipal employees should tell committee members to expand the scope of any legislation introduced this year to include city employees, in addition to state workers. City teachers have reported rampant workplace bullying at Capital Preparatory Magnet School.   https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/jonathan-pelto-talks-about-rep-matt-ritters-workplace-bullying-town-hall-january-27/ Call and email labor committee co-chairs Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield and Rep. Peter Tercyak and legislators representing your district.The contact info for committee members can be viewed here.  http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?code=LAB
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Visit our Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction   Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for public service announcements on CP’s racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
Hartford Courant article on the Hartford Internal Audit Commission’s report on Mayor Pedro Segarra’s hiring practices:
Freedom of Information Commission website:
Cornell Lewis’ DCF Plantation blog (includes data charts):
Cornell Lewis Legal Defense Fund:
David Samuels
Community Party


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