a_latino_agenda_to_cuomo_a - The Latino Society of New York

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                                 A LATINO AGENDA:
                                 RECOMMENDATIONS TO
                     GOVERNOR-ELECT ANDREW CUOMO &
                      LT. GOVERNOR-ELECT ROBERT DUFFY

                                                PREPARED NOVEMBER 2010 & SUPPORTED BY:
                                           CENTRO CIVICO OF AMSTERDAM
                                THE MOHAWK VALLEY LATINO ASSOCIATION
                               THE INDEPENDENT VOTER CLUB OF RYE TOWN
                                       THE NEW YORK LATINO DEMOCRATS
                                    FUERZA LATINA, UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
                                                 JÓVENES ECUATORIANOS

“Nations march to greatness at the same pace as their educational systems evolve.” – Simone Bolivar
November 29, 2010

Andrew Cuomo                                               Robert Duffy
Governor-Elect, New York State                             Lt. Governor-Elect, New York State
Andrew Cuomo 2010                                          Bob Duffy 2010
Church Street Station                                      Post Office Box 10038
P.O. Box 683                                               Rochester, New York 14610
New York, NY 10008

Dear Governor-Elect Cuomo and Lt. Governor-Elect Duffy:

The future of New York’s Latino communities is inextricably tied to the success of your administration.
Faced with a national and regional economic downturn which has worsened the living standard of
millions of our fellow residents, Latinos all across our state overwhelmingly showed their support for
your vision of rebuilding New York. 81% of all votes cast by Latinos went to support your election to the
Governorship and Lieutenant Governorship of the Empire State.

However optimistic we are on your election, we are also reminded of past promises that have been
broken by previous administrations. New York is the state with the third largest Latino population in the
United States and soon to be released 2010 Census figures will reveal that there are well over 4 million
Latinos living here. With a tradition of undercounting, that number is closer to 5 million or one-in-four
New Yorkers. At a time in our history when New York is the most diverse, the government that
represents us is actually heading in the opposite direction; less diverse and in to many instances
neglectful and indifferent to the adverse impact of policies and regulations it implements.

This is a situation that can not continue considering the wealth of talent, skills and high level of education
held by many Latinos across our state. The pool of Latino candidates for senior policy positions is large
and the Latino community is anticipating systematic and structural changes that will allow the talent in
our communities to participate in meaningful and important roles in your administration.

With this thought in mind, The Latino Society of New York, a nonpartisan networking association of
almost 4,000 Latino professionals and stakeholders in the wellbeing of the Latino community, present to
you 12 brief recommendations that are fundamental to creating the change we hope to see from your
administration. While there are dozens of social and economic issues that need to be addressed, these
recommendations and their brief presentations serve as a benchmark for our goals and expectations that
have been embodied by our strong electoral support for you and New York’s Democratic Party.

From supporting your efforts to clean up government and make elections more competitive through a
Redistricting Commission that also needs to incorporate a ban on discriminatory at-large-elections
practices in 1,400 localities that rely on this ethnic and racially polarizing voting method to realizing that
funding to strengthen our public higher education system can be generated from the hundreds of
millions of dollars in potential annual royalty fees paid by energy companies wanting to drill for gas in
the Marcellus Shale beneath the land managed by the University at Binghamton, Latinos are paying close
attention to the political and policy decisions being made at these critical times for our State and nation.
We look forward to being a resource and strong supporters in your work to rebuild New York and
strongly encourage you to refrain from making a few symbolic Latino appointments to your
administration. A roadmap to avoiding such a move is held in these pages and strongly supported by
the list of prominent organizations listed below.

The great Cuban egalitarian and poet José Mart, once said, “Like stones rolling down hills, fair ideas
reach their objectives despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but
impossible to stop them.” We hope that the Cuomo and Duffy Administration will be a catalyst for the
ideas outlined within.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Guillermo A. Martinez
President, The Latino Society of New York

Jose Quizhpi & Gregory Segarra
Chairs, The Latino Society of New York, Queens & Brooklyn Chapters
Dr. Elena Rios
President & CEO, The National Hispanic Medical Association
Carmen Collado
President, The Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals
Luis A. Vazquez
Chairman of the Board, The National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Health
George A. Zeppenfeldt-Cestero,
President, The Association of Hispanic Healthcare Executives
Debra Martinez
President, The Grand Council of Hispanic Societies in Public Service
George A. Zeppenfeldt-Cestero,
Chair, The Roundtable of Hispanic Professional Health Associations
Ladan Alomar
Executive Director, Centro Civico of Amsterdam
Rita Paniagua
Executive Director, The Spanish Action League of Onondaga County
Sonia Martinez
Executive Director, The Mohawk Valley Latino Association
Cesar Ruiz
Chair, The Independent Voter Club of Rye Town
Joseph A. Gomez
Chairman of the Board, The Greater Capital Region Minority Business Association
Fannie Lansch,
Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Gregory P. Segarra,
Chair, The New York Latino Democrats
Irving Burbano,
Chair, The National Latino Collegiate Conference and Pres. of Fuerza Latina, University at Albany
Jose Quizhpi
President, Jóvenes Ecuatorianos

P.O. Box 7337 Capital Station, Albany New York 12224 --
Traditionally, Hispanics and Hispanic political leadership in New York have settled for the
appointment of token number of Hispanics to high-level or mid-level jobs in the
administrations of governors, county executives or mayors.

This pattern has not yielded the necessary incorporation of Hispanics into the political or
economic fabric of the Empire State. At best, Hispanics have only seen token gains in the quality
of life when compared with other New Yorkers. In some Upstate locales, the quality of life for
Hispanic children has been identified the federal government as some of the worst places in the
United States. Hispanics both Upstate and Downstate are increasing being isolated from the
American dream of a high-quality life rooted in high levels of educational attainment.

Decades of tremendous growth in both the Hispanic population and their purchasing power
have not been properly acknowledged. Major policy and institutional changes are needed to
open the door of opportunity for Hispanics. A series of governmental “Hispanic-friendly”
policies are needed to create synergies between the public and private sector. This process will
inexorably create the necessary conditions, both Upstate and Downstate, to energize and
economically empower the Hispanic community. In order for this to occur, a dynamically
robust set of strategic initiatives needs to be implemented at the highest levels of government of
the Empire State.

Hence, the Cuomo/Duffy Administration must be guided by bold policy initiatives that
significantly change the role of Hispanic participation throughout state government.

Currently there are approximately 168,000 state workers. Hispanics constitute approximately
4% of the state worker force; they are largely in low-level positions without any authority to
exercise significant influence over policy matters. The Empire State has a long and well-
recorded history of discrimination within its Civil Service workforce. Over 4,500 Hispanic and
African-American have joined a class action lawsuit moving its way through the federal court
system challenging this situation. Federal judges have seen the merits of this lawsuit.

Given the history cited above, we strongly urge the following robust initiatives:

1. It is imperative to have Hispanics named to agencies as Commissioners, Deputy Executive
Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, Counsels, Government Affairs Liaisons and
department heads. The Cuomo Administration must not appoint only a few token Hispanics to
commissionerships of agencies that have a minimal impact on the economic well-being of
Hispanic communities. In the past, Hispanic appointees tended to be less than effective since
they were not able to bring their own team to manage a state agency.

2. Agency head and subordinate appointments must be done in clusters within agencies and
the Cuomo Administration must mandate that the NYS Department of Civil Service hold, by
April 1, 2011, mandatory briefing for all top agency staff on the powers of agency heads to
circumvent civil service rules as it pertains to diversity hiring prerogatives of the
commissioners and deputy executive commissioners. In past Hispanic agency heads found
themselves without a strong team with the ability to deal with the complexity of managing and
shaping their organization. Any Hispanic agency head would be faced with the usual
bureaucratic intransigence coupled with the discriminatory and hostile work culture previously
noted. We urge that the incoming Governor establish policy initiatives to ensure that this issue
is not “siloed” but rather coordinated through his and the Lt. Governor’s staff.
3. The Cuomo Administration must appoint Hispanics to high-level positions on the staff of
the Governor and Lt Governor's office. The Governor's staff takes the lead in shaping state
policies through the promulgation of program bills, rules and regulations that impact all
New Yorkers including Hispanic communities. In the recent past, the Spitzer Administration
had as Deputy Secretary for Education Manny Rivera. Dr. Rivera was the only Hispanic within
the Governor’s Office that had an important portfolio tasked with budgetary and policy
policies. Governor Paterson appointed Daz Velez as a special assistant in early spring of 2010,
at the time his administration was mired in chaos and investigations. In retrospect, over the
past 16 years, other than these two short-lived appointments, Hispanics have not held any
significant and influential positions in the Empire State’s executive branch.

4. The Cuomo Administration must appoint a Hispanic to the statutorily required Chief
Diversity Officer in order to deal with the well documented under-representation of
Hispanics in State government. This position reports directly to the Governor and needs to
be charged with aligning the civil service system, executive agencies and the State University
of New York so that they reflects the diversity and strength of our citizenry. This is a new
position created by law this past July and was the by-product of recommendations of the 705
Commission (chapter 705 of the laws of 2006 which created a state commission to increase the
representation of minorities in state government workforce). This is an extremely important
position that can begin to chip away at the culture of benign neglect that has adversely
impacted the Upstate and Downstate Hispanic community. New York’s state governmental
workforce should reflect the growing diversity of its citizenry. Hispanics are the fastest
growing segment of the Empire State and its largest ethnic majority.

5. The Cuomo Administration must immediately issue an executive order mandating that all
Affirmative Action Officers report directly to commissioners and agency heads and require
the that the NYS Department of Civil Service afford all current Affirmative Action Officers
competitive status classification and ongoing continued education courses as the field of
equal employment opportunity evolves. Over the past two decades, Affirmative Action
Officers have operated for the most part in a hostile work environment. They have been unable
to effectively carry out their duties because of the specter of retaliation in the form of a
demotion or dismissal. Many Affirmative Action Officers are assigned to the agency's human
resource office and are not allowed to transfer to other titles. This is a highly ineffective practice
and is completely at odds with nation-wide best practice standards with regard to effectively
carrying out equal employment opportunity policies. In order to provide Affirmative Action
Officers with the ability to do their job without hindrance or the possibility of retaliation and/or
dismissal, their positions need to be reclassified to competitive status. The Civil Service
Department has objected to this policy change. Since 2006, the 705 Commission and legislation
in both the state Senate and the Assembly have called for such a policy change, to solidify the
ability to address the problem of lack of diversity in the government workforce and the lack of
upward mobility for minorities in state service in a more proactive and aggressive way.
6. The Cuomo Administration must move immediately to require that the Office of Minority
Health report directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Health and the Governor's
Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services. In addition, this office should be
adequately funded and staffed in order to proactively meet the needs of the increasing Asian,
Hispanic and African-American community. Hispanic communities throughout New York are
faced with major health issues. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease are illnesses
disproportionately impacting Hispanic communities. Yet Hispanics are living longer than all
ethnic groups with these costly diseases. Asthma and pediatric asthma are disproportionately
high in the Puerto Rican community. The Empire State has the highest rate of asthma in the
nation. Yet almost 20 years after the creation of the Office of Minority Health in the NYS
Department of Health operates in relative obscurity. The office has not grown to meet the needs
of an immigrant community that has expanded over the last two decades. Instead, the Office of
Minority Health is saddled with a meager budget that not grown since its inception. This office
operates with a cobbled together staff from throughout the Department of Health. In addition,
the office does not have direct reporting authority to the Commissioner of Health. Again, what
we see is an administrative practice that is at odds with best practices found in states with
significant Hispanic populations. Compounding this problem are the efforts in the U. S.
Congress to end earmark spending will have a detrimental impact on federal health disparities
program funding. 78% of all health disparity expenditures are allocated through earmark
spending due to the failure of government agencies to institutionalize the funding patterns
needed to address minority health problems.

7. The Cuomo Administration must immediately move to strengthen diversity efforts at the
State University of New York by creating the position of Vice Chancellor for Diversity and
requiring SUNY to hire an Affirmative Action Officer. The State University of New York has
recently undergone a series of highly publicized hirings and promotions but maintains its status
as the largest public system of higher education in the nation without a Vice Chancellor for
Diversity or an Affirmative Action Officer. With almost 97,000 minority students, SUNY has
the reputation of being the only college system in a state with a major Hispanic population that
does not have a single campus with the designation of Hispanic Serving Institution. The faculty
in this vast system is only 3% Hispanic and 4% of black: This at a time when within five years,
50% of all high school graduates will be minorities and shortly thereafter, 25% of all high school
graduates will be Hispanic. Currently only 51% of Hispanic attending college graduate in 6
years and overall only 10 in 100 Hispanics graduate college. The economic impact of these
figures on New York in terms of low wages, low tax collection and costly social services are
tremendous and dangerous to the long-term economic stability of the Empire State.

8. The Cuomo Administration must move immediately to create an Ombudsman for
Education with the sole responsibility tracking the funds and assessing the quality of
programs funded through state allocations for school district and charter school expenditure
of funds targeted to ELL and LEP students. New York has long been a destination of
immigrants. Over 20% of all New Yorkers are foreign born and over 30% speak languages other
than English at home. Our education system is struggling and failing when it comes to teaching
English Language Learners and Limited English Proficient students. The educational outcomes
for these New Americans are horrific; 70% of New York ELL students will never graduate from
high school. Yet significant funding was secured to improve this outcome through both the
Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the recent Race to the Top award. However, the targeted
funding is not making its way for the recruiting of teaching staff needed to address this problem
or into the classrooms filled with ELL students. Continued failure to improve student outcomes
and the high drop out rates are considerable factors that will aggravate New York's economy.
9. The Cuomo Administration must move quickly to create an agency or authority specific
mechanism to assist new business start-ups in minority communities with the technical
assistance they need to ensure these firms will thrive and help the state economy with job
creation. Hispanic business ownership is growing at a fast rate and in some parts of New York
accounts for 90% of all new businesses started. A quick snapshot of small businesses in the
Empire State reveals that 27% of the 1.7 million business firms in New York are owned by
largely owned by immigrants and minorities. This is an area that the Empire State needs to
target and grow. Unfortunately New York does not have a formal way of addressing this issue.
Currently we do not have a state agency that targets focused assistance to these firms in an
effort to strengthen their operations.

10. The Cuomo Administration must create an office within the Executive Chamber to
address the technical and funding needs of struggling community based not-for-profit
organizations. In under-served and underrepresented communities, the need for services
ranging from housing to child care and domestic violence prevention to assistance for the
disabled is considerably high. The State does not have the ability to meet that high demand,
and has implicitly relied on the more than 50,000 not-for-profit and community based
organizations to meet that ever increasing need for social services and other safety net
programs. Many of the not-for-profits are small and lack the necessary expertise to seek and
access financial support to sustain and increase their effectiveness and presence. Hispanics and
other ethnic minorities are a large segment of the clientele served by these organizations, yet
these same organizations tend to be at the front line when cuts are implemented. Strengthening
their fiscal well being, providing them with the necessary tools to navigate through countless
regulations, bureaucratic processes, and providing technical support would improve these
organizations sustainability and service outcomes.

11. In its Redistricting Commission proposal, the Cuomo Administration must include
language that will ban the use of at-large-elections in the more than 1,400 municipalities that
currently continue to use these discriminatory voting practices. The United States
Department of Justice has prosecuted and federal courts have upheld lawsuits charging that at-
large-elections are discriminatory and disenfranchise minority voters. At-large-elections
produce racial and ethnic polarized voting patterns that pose a threat to the growing and
emerging minority communities throughout New York. Most recently, federal courts blocked
elections in the Village of Port Chester until that municipality devised a new voting system that
would no longer violate the voting rights of the town’s majority Hispanic population. The
Village of Port Chester case is not an isolated event. It took three years of court challenges by
community groups to change the practice. Similar situations exist throughout New York but in
communities where residents lack the legal support and resources to file their own
discrimination lawsuits. Any attempt to redesign the way New York’s political districts are
redrawn for the 2012 elections should do away with at-large-election processes.

12. The Cuomo Administration needs to use the resources and powers of the State Police to
diligently investigate patterns of civil rights violations and bias-related crimes throughout
New York State. Recently, the federal government began an investigation into claims that the
Suffolk County Police Department violated the civil rights of Hispanic residents who had been
subject of intimidation, crimes and murder based on their ethnicity. More recently organized
and targeted attacks against Hispanic on Staten Island have not received the attention they need
from top government officials. With the current anti-immigrant climate worsening, it is
critically important that the State Police are used to investigate and help investigate such crimes
and the perception that law enforcement is trivializing these incidents.

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