Saturday, March 31, 2012

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda

  Now that Assemblyman Peter Rivera will join the Cuomo administration as of June 30th as the new Commissioner of the State Labor Department it could be smooth sailing for community leader Luis Sepulveda. In 2010 Sepulveda ran against entrenched incumbent Assemblyman Peter Rivera, and lost by only a few hundred votes garnering 44% of the vote in the Democratic primary. Sepulveda has opened an Headquarters at 1512 Castle Hill Avenue (pictured above), and started his campaign 2012 the day after his 2010 primary loss. Sepulveda has been in every part of the new 87th A.D. knocking on doors, talking to people, and offering free legal help when needed. His campaign is ready for the start of petitioning that will begin in June for state offices.
  Sepulveda is part of "Team Diaz 2012", That being Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz (32nd State Senate District), Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (85th Assembly District), and candidate Luis Sepulveda (87th Assembly District). 

Among his concerns are Public Safety, Education, Legal Services, and the Environment, to name only a few. Below is candidate Sepulveda with Senator Diaz, District Leader Julia Rodriguez, Ms. Mary Walsh of the Parkchester South Houses and many community members who protested that there is no elevator for handicapped people at the recently renovated Parchester # 6 line subway station. Sepulveda has begun legal action to have such mandated services be put at the subway station, and is in the process of getting 10,000 community signatures to go along with the action.

 You can go to or visit Luis Sepulveda on Facebook to learn more.


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What You Should Know by Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz

By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
32nd Senatorial District, Bronx County, New York 

The Second Floor is Calling

  You should know that the Office of the New York State Governor is located on the Second Floor of the Capital Building in Albany.  Therefore, anything and everything that has to do with the Governor is referred to as coming “from the Second Floor.”
   You should also know that there were seven pieces of legislation dealing with the Budget.  Independently, each piece of legislation was supposed to be discussed and approved by the majority of the Senators before they could be sent to the Governor to sign into law.
   It was on Friday, March 30, 2012 when the Senate started its Session at 10am to begin “The Battle of the Budget” in order for the greatest legislators to show the world how they “protect, defend and care for” their communities.
   By 12 noon, we had only gone through and approved two (2) of the seven (7) pieces of the Budget legislation.  Senator Liz Krueger was standing on the Floor of the Senate, discussing in depth the third piece of Budget legislation – and then it happened: there was a call from the Second Floor.
   Suddenly, everything stopped, the Senate went into an immediate recess.  Every Senator was instructed to eat pizza - courtesy of the Leadership – while the Senate Leadership went to the Second Floor to stand by the Governor in front of the cameras while Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a Budget that was not yet approved by the Senate.
   What a marvelous achievement by the powerful Governor - and what a demonstration of obedience by the Members of the New York State Legislature!
   Can you imagine: this was history in the making to sign into Law a Budget that had not been approved by the legislature ... only in New York.
   There are many questions that come to my mind:  Is this legal?  Was there any law broken?  Is this democracy in action?  Did the Governor call everyone beforehand and get them to promise their votes in order for him not to be embarrassed?
   Can you imagine what would have happened if the Governor signed the Budget into Law in front of the cameras – and then the legislature did not approve it?  He would have been the joke of the nation.
   I believe something is going on here ... Some people believe that this was done as a favor to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in order for him to have time to observe his religious beliefs.  If that was in fact the reason to break the rules and sign the Budget without the approval of the Legislature, I must ask everyone who accuses ME of mixing my religion with my political duties what they have to say now.
   By 1:30pm, the Senate was called back into Session, and Senator Liz Krueger, acting like nothing unusual had happened, resumed her lengthy questioning of the Budget.
   What was the purpose, and what was the point?  We should have all been sent home.
   The Second Floor had its second victory:  an on-time budget (the second year in a row), done during daylight, another Budget balanced on the backs of the poor, and the first one signed into law even before it was even passed in the Senate.
   You should know that the Budget did not include the Dream Act; it took away senior citizens STAR tax relief help; it eliminated the Tenant Protection Unit leaving tenants all over New York State without protection; and it has no money for minority business enterprises – among other things.
   I do not understand why Black and Hispanic legislators would vote in favor of and approve of something like that, even knowing that it was already signed into law a few hours earlier by the Governor.  I cannot understand how they could stand on the Senate Floor and speak on the Senate Floor as if they were fighting for the immigrant students and the rest of the needy people in New York.
   You should also know that the day before the Budget was signed into Law, the Governor asked all of the Senators to go to his mansion and partake with him drinking and eating his food.  Would it be possible that it was during that gathering that they promised him they would vote in favor of the Budget?  I don’t know and I can’t say for sure because I was not there.
   The whole situation only reminds me of when Rome was controlled by Emperors, and the way in which the Emperor used to summon his subjects to his palace. Everyone had to stop what they were doing and run to him or suffer the consequences.

   Oops! I have to go.  My phone is ringing.  The Second Floor is calling.
I am Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.


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Friday, March 30, 2012



  On Thursday, March 29, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. held the first ever “Bronx Fathers Taking Action” conference, an open group discussion led by Borough President Diaz with psychologists, educators and social workers as well as fathers of all ages to emphasis the importance of a father’s involvement in their children’s life to help empower their growth and education. As you will see in the pictures below the rotunda of the Bronx County Building was packed, and there was a lively exchange that went on.

  At the conference were service providers to help the fathers that included The United Federation of Teachers, Legal Services of the Bronx, The Children's Aid Society, Fathers 4 Progress, Partnership with Children, The Bronx Public Library, The Bronx Health Link, BronxWorks, Center for Employment Opportunities, New York City Children Services, The NYC Human Resources Administration, The NYC Department of Education, and the College Board. 

  Ms. Monica Major (BP Diaz's Director of Education & Youth  Services) opened the conference with remarks from Mr. Wilfredo Pagan (Bronx Representative for the Panel on Education for Policy), and then the Interactive Panel Discussion led by BP Diaz took place. Panel members included Dr. Jeff Gordero (Psychologist), Mr. David Banks (President of the Eagle Academy Foundation), Mr. Jessie Mojica (Executive Director the Office of Parent Engagement at the NYCDOE), Mr. Nelson Mar, Esq. (of Bronx Legal Services), Mr. Roger ball, MSW/MA (social worker), and Mr. Raymond Singleton (Assistant Deputy Commissioner, NYC HRA/ Office of Child Support Enforcement). 

  The idea of this conference was to get fathers more involved in their children's education as BP Diaz said that almost half of all minority children under 17 have no father. He added "This is not for me, but the entire community, the Bronx". I asked BP Diaz what he thought of the 33 schools being closed by the mayor and chancellor with 10 of the 33 in the Bronx. Diaz answered that "closing down a school is not the solution", Adding that the DOE has violated proper procedures, and that children are not given the services or resources that they need. 

  To enlarge the picture, just click on it.

Ms. Monica Major speaks to the crowd, with BP Diaz seated in his chair waiting to hear from the Bronx fathers that came. In the background are some of the panelist. 

You can see the packed audience with standing room only..
Here you see BP Diaz and the panel taking questions from some of the fathers gathered.



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Congressman Rangel Back in Hospital

Even though it is the second time in a month that Congressman Charlie Rangel has been hospitalized, his campaign says that "all is well", and Rangel is not running to be a place holder for some one else. Politicker N.Y. has an interesting story on the events about Congressman Rangel's hospital stays that can be found here . The story has reports from several Rangel campaign people that say Rangel is running, and will serve out his full term.
We can only wait and see if that is true or if one of Rangel's challengers are elected instead.


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Senator Rivera Votes NO, Speaks to Missed Opportunities in the Budget

 Doesn’t Tackle Health Exchange, Transportation Funding and Funding for Tenants Protection Unit


  Senator Gustavo Rivera (D,-Bronx) voted today on 7 of 11 budget bills, voting NO on S. 6254D (Capital Funds), S.6250D (State Operations) and S.6256D (Health and Mental Hygiene). Prior to today, the State Senate had voted on 4 of the 11 budget bills, all of which Senator Rivera supported on the floor of the Senate.

Senator Rivera speaks on S.5254D (Capital Funds bill):

Senator Rivera speaks on S.6253E (Aid to Localities bill):

“Today the legislature missed several opportunities to improve the lives of working families by not creating a New York State Health Insurance Exchange, not allocating dedicated funding for the new Tenants Protection Unit within the Department of Housing and Community Renewal and by failing to fund the MTA Capital Plan at the levels necessary to avoid a fare hike next year,” said Senator Rivera. “I voted in support of the Aid to Localities budget bill, which included the restoration of funding for Neighborhood Preservation Program that supports organizations like the West Bronx Housing Resource Center and Fordham Bedford Housing.  I was also pleased that the Aid to Localities budget bill took several important steps forward to increase funding for our community colleges, for domestic violence programs and for the creation of the Office of New Americans, which will work to engage legal permanent residents and increase access to English Language education services and citizenship services.”

“I also want to credit the students, families, teachers and education advocates who came to Albany to express their outrage that $250 million would be allocated to competitive grants, instead of to the neediest schools in our state. Thanks in large part to their advocacy, only $50 million was finally allocated to competitive grants, while $200 million went to state aid.”

State Senate Democrats proposed a total of 7 amendments to the budget, all of which Senator Rivera supports. However, each time an amendment was introduced, Senate Republicans refused to allow the amendments to come to a vote. The amendments included votes on whether to include the following bills in the State Budget:

·         Funding for a Study on the Seismic Impact of Hydrofracking
·         Inclusion of the New York State DREAM Act
·         Increasing CUNY Foundation Aid
·         Creation of a Small Business Revolving Loan Fund
·         Creation of the New York State Health Insurance Exchange
·         Providing Medicaid relief for localities
·         Creation of Senior STAR Property tax Rebate for senior homeowners.

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  On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, the Council passed the Prevailing Wage Bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Oliver Koppell, that would require building owners to pay building service employees the “prevailing wage”, at least the same amount that government contractors pay their workers, in facilities that the city subsidizes or where the city leases space.   Among the categories of building services workers covered by the legislation are building cleaners, porters, janitors, gardeners, firemen, elevator operators, security guards,  door persons and  window cleaners.     
  Every year, the New York City Comptroller determines the prevailing wage schedule for building service employees, which is in the broad range of $20 an hour, but  varies based on the size, age and condition of the building/project in which the employee works and the building service employee’s tenure. The Comptroller is also responsible for monitoring compliance with provisions of the law.

  “The building service employees provide necessary services to hundreds of city subsidized properties and projects throughout the city.  For many of these workers this bill means higher wages that will make a huge difference for their families and help level the playing field between wealthier New Yorkers and those struggling to get into the middle class,” Koppell said.
  The Mayor plans to veto the bill but it appears that the Council has more than enough votes to override the veto.


  Also on Wednesday, March 29, 2012, the Council approved a bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Oliver Koppell, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, requiring that the existing Livery Passenger Bill of Rights, which is posted in every livery vehicle, include the right  that disabled individuals are entitled to price and service levels equivalent to those provided to non-disabled passengers, including being able to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
  Presently, the Bill of Rights enumerates twelve rights that a passenger has, including having a courteous driver, clean car and not having to tip for poor service.  However, there is no specification of the service that disabled people are entitled to under rules promulgated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). This bill would require that the currently existing Livery Passenger Bill of Rights be augmented to include a provision notifying disabled passengers of their rights.
  “I am pleased that this bill will enable disabled individual to be aware of their rights and be in a better position to obtain the service to which they are entitled,” Koppell said.


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What You Should Know by Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz

What Have New York State Senior Citizens Done to Governor Andrew Cuomo?

What does Governor Andrew Cuomo have against the Senior Citizens of New York State?
You should know that last year he refused to extend the Millionaires Tax, but apparently thought that it was appropriate to slash approximately $58 million from EPIC, the State program that provides prescription drug insurance coverage for eligible Seniors. The impact of this cut, and the partial restoration of $22 million, forced many seniors to be socked with a co-pay of 25% of the cost of their prescription drugs!

Apparently, Governor Cuomo was not satisfied with last year’s proposal to cut services to Senior Citizens.  This year the Governor recommended a $48 million dollar cut to EPIC. The Senate Republicans, yes, you read that correctly, the Senate Republicans proposed to completely restore this cut in their one-house budget resolution, but were prevented by our own Democratic Legislators in the Assembly for including the full restoration in the final budget.  

You should know that the Democratic Assembly, refused to include a single dollar in restoring EPIC.  I cannot figure out for the life of me why the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat Sheldon Silver who controls the Assembly have allowed the Senate Republicans to look like the heroes and the protectors of Senior Citizens in the fight for EPIC.

So, where are we now? Final budget negotiations have restored $30 million to EPIC. This restoration will mean that the maximum co-pay for EPIC will be $20. Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Not so fast! After all, it is important that you should know that the Seniors of New York State will have to wait until January 1, 2013 to be able to benefit from this so-called victory.  In other words, no Senior Citizen should get sick between now and January 2013.

I was not surprised when I read the following statement issued by AARP: “The average EPIC enrollee is a 78-year-old widow who takes four prescriptions. Since the devastating EPIC cut took effect on January 1st  of this year, we have been hearing very troubling stories of seniors leaving the pharmacy counter without their medications because EPIC no longer provided co-pay assistance”. You should know that these are the consequences of the cuts proposed by Governor Cuomo and voted for by the State Legislature.

Now we all have to ask: “What is this 78 year-old widow supposed to do between now and January 1, 2013?” Hope and pray that she doesn’t get any sicker and find that she needs a fifth or sixth prescription?

 AARP and Statewide Senior Action Council, two of the major advocacy organizations for Seniors in New York State, are hailing this as a “win” and as a “victory” for Seniors. What win? What victory?
The Statewide Senior Action Council, another group that advocates for Senior Citizen’s rights, in its testimony during this year’s budget conference committee, stated that: “The cuts to the EPIC program which were enacted last year have taken full effect on January 1, 2012 and are a shock to many older persons.  They are having a devastating impact on those with low incomes…” Some state legislators have told us they didn’t realize that what they voted for in the budget would lead to the devastating cuts in EPIC.”

Did I understand that correctly? Some legislators didn’t know that their votes would lead to such devastating cuts? What a travesty!

Well, there is no mistaking now what a vote in favor of this budget will do. It is true that co-pays will be limited to no more than $20 for each prescription but not until January, 2013!

Until then, what are the seniors in my district and throughout the State supposed to do?  You should know and remember that elderly New Yorkers don’t only live in the South Bronx.  They live all over New York State: in Senator Roy McDonald’s District; in Senator Jim Alesi’s District; in Senator Mark Grisanti’s District; and even in Senator Stephen Saland’s District.

What are all these seniors supposed to do when their Senators, including the Black and Hispanic Senators are voting proudly and praising Governor Andrew Cuomo for a budget that hurts them the most?

I am Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

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