Picente Under Fire
December 16th 2011 · 2 Comments
It’s disturbing that the people who most want to change are often the ones who suffer most. It’s sad that parents who work arduously to break the cycle of generations of poverty are the ones that seem destined, through a lack of support, to repeat this often vicious cycle.
This is the message as it has been received by Utica residents struggling to pay for day care while they work or attend classes to improve their lives. The latest budget sent down by County officials earlier this month announced that due to a lack of funding, families living at or just above the Federal poverty line will lose their child care subsidies come January 2012.
To address this issue, the Thea Bowman House called a public meeting on Dec. 13. The auditorium at St. Frances De Sales Center on Genesee Street was filled as people gathered for a forum to address these issues of funding for day care assistance. Most of the people in attendance were concerned parents and others who converged to address the devastating budget soon to be enacted.
The Thea Bowman House, which just celebrated their 25th year of providing quality day care to low-income children of various ages, are among the agencies in Oneida County that will be affected by the cuts being made to public and private providers. Parents, politicians and others wanting to help drum up support for this pressing issue, were in attendance and allowed to voice their opinions.
“If our children are our future, we need to fight for them,” said one attendee. Cassandra Howard, a single mother, first broke down her budget and then broke down into tears when she spoke about having to choose between quitting her job and dropping out school because of these cuts.
Diana Brown, an employee of the Thea Bowman House, followed up by saying that while she doesn’t know what it’s like to have to stand in line for assistance, she has heard it is a harrowing process. Brown went on to state to 5th Ward Councilman Jerome McKinsey, that the current crime rate, now at an all-time low, would be on the rise again if this decision were not reversed.
A subsequent story was told about a woman (from another state) who was confronted with a similar problem. After being denied food stamps, she killed her chhildren and then turned the gun on herself.
Michelle Strong who made a life for herself, thanks to assisted day care, has a grandson who will be affected by this decision, had a problem with the whole meeting because she felt that people, “should not have to beg to keep working.”
Councilman Jerome McKinsey reflected on his days of using childcare and said that many factors were not considered when this cut was made. He felt that people need to combine their voices to take the fight back to those responsible for this decision. However, McKinsey didn’t single-out County Executive Anthony Picente in the issue. Picente, who has taken the heat for the decision, had previously dodged responsibility, passing it to the State. However, McKinsey stated that he did not think that Picente should be held responsible, but agreed that the decision was not thought out.
When Mr. Picente had the opportunity to address the group of angry parents that were being affected by these cuts, the attendees erupted in anger and noise. Order had to be restored so that Mr. Picente could share his side of the story.
Anger was borne of the fact that these cuts would not only affect the parents and children in attendance, but various agencies, private providers and employees of these agencies as well.
One woman insisted that Mr. Picente was responsible for the decision, and that he could take money that the County is using for other projects, such as the now-completed Round-a-bout and the Park Ave. Parking Lot project in question, and give it to the children, who are the future.
Mr. Picente responded by saying that he heard everything loud and clear and he agrees with what has been said. That the issues are relevant and he doesn’t like the fact that it looks like a “particular population was targeted but those are the rules we live with.”
However he has been working with agencies and parents to rectify the situation and that other areas should be cut instead. Unfortunately it came in where it did because of the funding streams; and that he knows that’s not what families want to hear.This is a long-term problem that needs to be solved, and he doesn’t want to delay the inevitable of it being handled. Picente called the situation ‘a deal from another bad deck’ and he refused to stand and say that everything is going to be alright because he would be lying and he doesn’t do that.
Questions were also asked about Federal funding that could have been misappropriated, leading to this result of cuts to day care subsidies.
In closing Jane Domingue, Director of The Thea Bowman House, encouraged every one in attendance to keep the fire hot by sending letters and making phone calls to the necessary politicians through personal letters or by signing the drafted letter and mailing that to all public officials.
By Mark Ziobro