by Roberto Perez
New York State elected officials, who rely on discretionary funds for clout in their districts, are pulling their hair out over budget cuts. For the second consecutive year, they do not have discretionary money to dispense.
In poor, under-served communities, this has proved to be devastating. Nonprofit organizations are struggling to remain afloat. Manhattan Democratic Party Chairman Assemblyman Keith Wright, who represents a district that is 35% Latino, said the millionaire’s tax that Governor Cuomo is so adamantly against, could have been “a good way to plug these holes. Usually, we as legislators are able to plug the holes, and help our nonprofits, with something called member items.”
In the Bronx, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, whose district is 64% Latino, is also frustrated. “You can see on my desk the pile of folders those are all requests from groups in my district that are waiting for the opportunity to get some funding,” he told me. “That’s the conversation I had with the Governor—we need the ability to bring resources, and direct them to communities. He claims that we will be able to do that with his ideas for regional economic development.”
An interesting tidbit: Cuomo, who has received some criticism for the lack of Latino appointments in his administration, appointed former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer to the board of the MTA. Ferrer is not known for biting his tongue.
It’s a pretty impressive move considering the lack of Latino representation on the MTA board and other key authorities and commissions. Some may remember that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. recommended Ferrer to serve on the city’s Charter Review Commission but was turned down by Mayor Bloomberg. A Bronx political insider said this to me when I brought it up: “You must be out of your mind if you think for one second that Bloomberg would appoint someone who ran for mayor twice to the commission.”
I guess old grudges die hard.