Mary Sanders Speaks at Budget Hearing/Ferguson & Hyacinth Yennie/Safe Work Environment Act

This column appears in the March 12 – 19 edition of the Hartford News….

Policy Watch

Spanish Speaking Center Faces Closure

Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain, CT Executive Director and Community Party member Mary Sanders was the last person to testify at last Friday’s Appropriations Committee public hearing on Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed $25 million in human services cuts. You can watch her testimony at approximately the 7 hour, 6 minute mark of the Connecticut Network video of the hearing. http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/webstream.asp?odID=11280&odTitle=Appropriations%20Committee%20Public%20Hearing%20on%20the%20Governor%u2019s%20Budget%20for%20DPH%2C%20DDS%2C%20DMHAS%20%26%20Dept.%20of%20Veterans%u2019%20Affairs&caption=true Mary stated that SSC faces closure on July 1st, as Malloy’s proposed budget would eliminate 85% of the 50-year-old SSC’s funding. SSC provides culturally and linguistically appropriate services to 3,000 low income residents with a budget of $175,000 in New Britain, a town with a 40% poverty rate and a 35% Hispanic population.

Mary suggested that lawmakers explore revenue streams such as a 1% increase in the state’s sales tax and the creation of a publicly owned bank. Rep. Susan Johnson (D-Windham) is sponsoring a public bank study bill. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2015&bill_num=5973 Rep. Matt Ritter sponsored the Community Party’s public infrastructure bank bill in 2013. The Bank of North Dakota is the nation’s only publicly owned bank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX8pcADnsEs BND generates an average of $30 million in revenue annually; during the last decade the bank has produced $300 million for the state’s General Fund. North Dakota uses this money to fund social services programs and infrastructure projects, at NO COST to taxpayers. BND also facilitates principled lending, which benefits small businesses and homeowners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZdzVzAUBuI Mary concluded her testimony with these words, “I can live in a cold state, I can’t live in a cold hearted state.” Stay tuned for updates on the plight of SSC and the human services community. Connecticut Voices for Children just released their latest policy plan; legislators, take notes. http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/funding-our-future-child-and-family-friendly-revenue-options

Biased Policing = $$$

serendipity – The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Last week’s Hartford News included a letter by Hartford Police apologist Hyacinth Yennie, who ignored the statistics and reiterated her opposition to police body cameras with more tired rhetoric aimed at shielding the HPD from accountability. One day earlier, the Department of Justice released a report which included findings (originally revealed by the St. Louis activist group Arch City Defenders months earlier) that the Ferguson Police Department was engaged in racial profiling. See our Resources section below for the full report. The hidden agenda of biased policing was also exposed, as the DOJ found that the City of Ferguson has been using revenue generated by the disproportionate fines of Black residents to balance their budget. Fines of Black residents comprise the second highest source of revenue for the city. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/03/15-most-outrageous-examples-of-police-misconduct-in-the-doj-report-on-ferguson/ The report described how this oppressive over-policing of Blacks fueled the distrust and anger that led to protests and at times violent rebellion after unarmed Black teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who was cleared of wrongdoing by a local grand jury and subsequently by the DOJ, one day after the announcement about their findings against the Ferguson PD, despite flaws legal experts discovered in the grand jury ‘investigation’: e.g. jurors were given a definition of justifiable use of force that was struck down by the Supreme Court 30 years ago. The DOJ discovered racist emails by city employees. CNN provided details.

“Police officers Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd resigned Thursday over the emails discovered during the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of racial prejudice in the city’s police and judicial system, city spokesman Jeff Small said on Friday, citing the city attorney.

The city’s top court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, was fired earlier this week in connection with the emails, Small said.

Several employees forwarded the emails but until now none had been disciplined, the report said.

Examples of the racist emails include one sent in October 2011 that showed a photo of bare-chested dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption ‘Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.’ A June 2011 email described a man trying to put his dogs on welfare because the canines were ‘mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no … clue who their Daddies are.’ Some critics have called for the department to be disbanded and for Police Chief Thomas Jackson to resign (Jackson resigned March 11).”

It would be interesting to see how Ferguson Blacks would react to Yennie’s condescending blather. Yennie said, “As community members, we should take the time to be informed and stop looking at complicated issues in ‘us vs. them’ terms. Let’s keep an open mind as to what could be.” The DOJ report shows that Yennie needs to take her own advice, as it shatters the ‘few bad apples’ bs that is often used to explain away biased policing. The City of Ferguson and the Ferguson PD have been engaged in a criminal conspiracy to make money by targeting poor, Black residents. The HPD has not responded to CP’s Freedom of Information request, sent several months ago, for a breakdown by neighborhood of fines for low level offenses in Hartford. We intend to follow up with the City Council about this, as Ferguson isn’t the only city in Missouri making big bank from racial profiling. Missouri lawmakers are talking about amending a law that puts a 30% cap on the amount of money made from fines that can be used toward a municipal operating budget. Legislators are considering lowering the cap to 10%, because of noncompliance. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/us/ferguson-one-of-2-missouri-suburbs-sued-over-gantlet-of-traffic-fines-and-jail.html We intend to talk to lawmakers about passing a similar law here in Connecticut. The DOJ findings on the use of disproportionate, excessive fines and incarceration of poor Ferguson Blacks as a revenue generator for the city show how over-policing of low income communities of color feeds the prison industrial complex in this country. My question to Yennie is, should the Black/Latino community in Hartford trust a police department that won’t respond to our FOI request?

Yennie’s argument about cameras being an anti-police tool is baseless. A study by Cambridge University found that the use of body cameras reduced police use of force by 59% and citizen complaints against police officers by 88%. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unKwsam7vIc The cameras obviously protect clean cops as well as community residents. Yennie isn’t really concerned about fiscal issues: she just doesn’t want the cameras, which makes no sense given the mutual benefit for residents and officers. If the city can find the dough for a luxury like a new baseball stadium, it can do the same for body cameras. Yennie responds to facts about police violence against Blacks and the effectiveness of body cameras with rhetoric and anecdotes, a sure sign of someone with a self-serving agenda. Yennie is actually correct when she says that cameras alone aren’t the solution, but her hire more cops/community policing smokescreen is not the answer. CP supports the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Racial Justice Plan, which can be found in our Trayvon Martin Act bill language. Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill includes our traffic stop receipt amendment. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/

The MXGM policy paper includes demands such as abolishing the so-called War on Drugs, which is really a war on people of color, and ending the economic exploitation (e.g. Ferguson criminalization of Blacks) which fuels poverty, the root cause of the pervasive urban drug trade and accompanying street violence. Blacks and Latinos earn approximately 60 cents for every dollar whites make, and possess about 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. The unemployment rates for Blacks and Latinos are at Depression-era levels (see Resources). Hartford annually has one of the highest poverty rates in the country: a U.S. Census report finds that the poverty rate in this city and other urban areas continues to rise. http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-income-and-health-insurance-connecticut-cities-and-towns-summary-2011-2013-data Yennie must acknowledge the links between the Democrats’ apathy regarding the poverty issue, which is reflected in Malloy’s proposed budget, and the conditions in Hartford. Two years ago CP sent invitations to Mayor Pedro Segarra, City Council President Shawn Wooden, other Democrats on the council board, then New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy and urban legislators to participate in an Action Poverty Conference. The objective was to begin the process of developing new antipoverty policies with the input of community residents and grassroots activists. Out of all of these Democrats, Assemblymen Ritter and Douglas McCrory were the only ones who agreed to participate.

The commemoration last week of the Bloody Sunday police attack on Civil Rights activists in Selma, Alabama 50 years ago should not be viewed as ‘ancient history’. Segregation still exists today in the form of racial economic disparity. When Martin Luther King shifted the focus of his work to economic justice, he said that many white allies “walked off with the aggressors”. http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=7810 Dr. King realized that it didn’t do any good to integrate a restaurant if a Black person didn’t have the money to buy food there. He told Harry Belafonte he was haunted by the thought that Blacks were “integrating into a burning house”. President Obama gave lip service to racial justice during his Selma speech last Saturday. The First Black President has not addressed Black unemployment, wage/wealth disparity, mass incarceration, or extrajudicial killings since he has been in office. Instead of acting as an agent for the HPD and arguing to maintain the status quo, Yennie should support the overdue changes that are needed in the urban community.

Workplace Bullying

The hit piece by Healthy Workplace Bill volunteer Kathy Hermes that appeared last week in the op-ed section of the Connecticut Mirror is pure propaganda. HWB is a weak bill that is designed to be palatable to conservative lawmakers, as it includes loopholes that benefit employers. CP’s Safe Work Environment Act would provide workers with more protection than the Healthy Workplace Bill, while eliminating legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. Our legislation eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical / psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill, which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. 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. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR. Unfortunately only our advisory board provision has been included in raised bill 1035. http://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/TOB/S/2015SB-01035-R00-SB.htm We’re talking to lawmakers in an effort to get our enforcement provisions added. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/real-protection-against-workplace-bullying-safe-work-environment-act/ Sen. Gary Winfield has just introduced another bill, S.B. No. 432. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2015&bill_num=432

Resources:

Department of Justice report on racial profiling by the Ferguson Police Department:

http://search.justice.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=justice&query=ferguson+police+department&commit=Search

Policing by Fleecing, in Ferguson & Beyond:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-ferguson-and-other-cities-jailed-for-being-poor/2015/03/06/e8cb5896-c42a-11e4-9271-610273846239_story.html

Missouri bill which would lower the cap on traffic fines cities can use as part of their operating budgets from 30% to 10%:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/15info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=160

United for a Fair Economy report on racial economic disparity and policy plan for low income communities of color:

http://www.faireconomy.org/news/state_of_the_dream_2010_drained

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/) . Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

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