By Curtis R. Simmons, Stephon Johnson, Josh Cyrus Baker and Amity Paye
Andrew Cuomo has assembled a lengthy Urban Agenda document covering a range of issues that are of interest to communities of color.
In a document covering more than 250 pages his staff has covered a range of issue from criminal justice, housing, education, small and minority businesses. The Amsterdam News staff began the process of analyzing the document so that we can access how a Cuomo Administration would approach issues facing urban and communities of color throughout the state.Because the Attorney General has limited his engagement with communities of color during this campaign season, we had hoped the reporting staff would be able to speak directly to the Attorney General about urban issues as he has defined them in the document. And while an extensive interview on the Urban Agenda was promised the AM News by Mr. Cuomo weeks ago, his staff failed to apportion the appropriate time before we went to press on Wednesday. Despite these shortcomings the staff has reviewed the document and we have attempted to analyze and dissect various aspects of the agenda.
Investing in Communities
Cuomo says he plans to make a major area of focus affordable housing, and cutting down on foreclosures statewide. He points to his experience with the Clinton Administration where he was Secretary of the Department Housing and Urban Development as key to his thinking on the subject. He plans to use competitive grant programs, and restore the Low Income Hosing Credit and the Community Development Block grants.
The agenda points out that there are 50,000 homeowners faced foreclosure in 2009. Many of them were due to subprime mortgages. Cuomo claims that he’s launched an investigation into four major mortgages services who participated in predatory lending practices. He also supports subprime prevention services and the creation of land banks to prevent foreclosure.
Investing in Business
With nearly half of the state’s businesses classified as Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs), Cuomo wants to increase the share of state contracting business awarded to MWBEs with a goal of twenty percent utilization.
However, the urban agenda claims that only one percent of MWBEs in the state are actually certified to participate. He says that his administration would increase certified participants plans to increase that number by promoting the benefits of being certified through the state’s Division of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Development.
Cuomo also says that he will increase capital—which is often in short supply for people of color—by expanding participation of community bank and credit unions in small business incentive programs.
Health insurance is another top concern of small and minority business owners and Cuomo says he will work with the congressional delegation to raise the income threshold for participation in the benefits from the recently passed Federal Health Reform Bill. Right now many small businesses are unable to participate because the threshold is too low.
Many communities of color continue to lag behind whites in reading, math and graduation rates. Cuomo says he want to focus on literacy rates for children, and adult learning and GED reform. GED reform has been a major issue for many education reformers since New York State has one of the lower pass rates among states.
“New York must commit to evaluating both the funding and service delivery streams which could drive critically necessary improvements in GED preparation programs through out the state,” the document states.
He also advocates for expansion of ESOL and other literacy programs for non-English speakers. Left out of the document are hot button issues like charter schools or methods to raise student test scores.
21st century workforce
Work force preparedness beyond a discussion of education is also highlighted. Cuomo says he wants to emphasize getting workers trained with specific skills for local industries that are not part of educational or specific training programs. Cuomo would use economic development and regional councils to coordinate efforts.
Health care is not just the concern of small business owners, but many urban residents are still trying to figure out how to get covered. Cuomo’s document says 2.7 million New Yorkers were uninsured in 2009. With a majority of the uninsured coming from working families, underserved communities and undocumented residents, the agenda looks to cover more of the uninsured.
Cuomo is looking to President Barack Obama’s health care reform to cover many of the those currently left uncovered. Under Obamacare 1.2 million New Yorkers will be newly insured, but even with so many more covered access to proper care remains an issue.
A major accomplishment of the Paterson administration has been the reform of the dreaded Rockefeller Laws and reform of prison gerrymandering led by Democratic Attorney General Candidate Eric Schneidermann. Cuomo wants to continue reform of the system by promoting programs that will reduce recidivism and work to improve the ability of former inmates to live productive lives. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world and a disproportionate amount of the inmates are Black and Brown men, creating opportunity to this population would greatly strengthen Black and Latino communities.