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Who Is Willing to Represent the Voiceless?

Written by fatherfrank  |  09. October 2002

The political landscape this year smells like a sewage treatment plant. The political rhetoric being hurled around these days makes an out of control teenager's mouth seem angelic.
The political propaganda littering our streets and polluting our airwaves is bordering on scandalous. The content of these ads says nothing of substance. They merely blemish the character and integrity of those running for public office. These costly ad hominum attacks are a disgrace to both major political parties. By our silence, we are sanctioning the wasting of our generous donations!
The questions to be raised this political season are: Who is running and what do they stand for? What are the key issues? Have the candidates even begun to address the hard issues? Will this be another election year where millions of dollars will be wasted on garbage campaigning, never really defining the issues or talking about a concrete plan of action?
In our larger community the issues are clear: protecting our quality of life, education, taxes, affordable housing and health care, teenage violence and discrimination, recklessness on our streets, violence and drug abuse, safety, the rising use of drugs and alcohol among those under twenty-one, especially the use of designer drugs and heroin among our high school students.
We talk about our children being our national treasure, but our political action treats them with indifference and neglect.
With all of the recent state incentives, in Suffolk County many valued human service public servants retired. Human services was already overburdened and understaffed. With the retirement incentives and the message from county government that these retirees will not be replaced, our human services, social welfare, public transportation, probation, CPS and Family Court are going to be further burdened and rendered more powerless and ineffective than they already are.
Is anyone running for public office this year concerned about our quality of life? Who is talking about the Red Cross and its' community service programs which are on the verge of going out of business after twenty-three years of vital service to our county, providing productive alternatives to incarceration? Why are they shutting down? Because they were cut from the county budget.
Who running for office is out there willing to represent the voiceless, that is the poor, the oppressed, the struggling middle class? In our congressional district, our two major candidates have spent a fortune ripping each other apart as human beings and have never really addressed the critical issues at hand. What do these men represent? What will we be sending back to Congress?
Each term in my sociology 11 class at Suffolk Community College I ask my students if they know who their elected representatives are. In a good semester, a handful will know who the governor and county executive are. They might guess who at least one of our federal senators is. Rarely do they know who their congressperson or local legislator is. When I question them further on their indifference, they speak about a political system "that doesn't care about them." They don't believe that any kind of civic involvement, at least in politics, will make a difference. The consensus is that the system is so corrupt it is hopeless.
Needless to say that is not my position. I do contend that the system is inept and clueless to the real needs of the rank and file. I will even concede that the structure, is at best pathetic, but it is the only system we have. The only way we are going to change this inept system is by getting involved, working and screaming for systemic change.
As members of the local community, we need to reclaim our political system and purge it of corruption, greed and narcissistic interests. There are some public servants who are committed to making a difference, even if it shackles their political ambitions.
The money that has been wasted just in this election year alone could have been used to better serve the needs of the poor or to keep the Red Cross's two-decade-old community service program operational.
In July of this year, after twenty years of fighting, our county has seen the light and has raised the PINS age to eighteen. Finally, at least in theory, parents might have a mechanism to assist them in managing their out of control teenagers. On paper there is a process to follow that might prevent an at risk, potentially reckless teenager from hurting him or her self. That is the good side of this new initiative.
The bad side is that this initiative has been promulgated at a time when our Family Court is already buried under because of a lack of staff and resources. Our Probation Department, on a good day, has way too many referrals to effectively do what they are supposed to do.
So simply, this initiative is almost doomed for disaster. We are not managing the out of control teenagers under sixteen. There are not enough probation officers, court personnel, respite care resources and long-term placements to accommodate the need.
We bumped the age up to eighteen. Now we our burying ourselves in more human disaster. A system that is inadequate and ill equipped to manage what is already before it is being further burdened.
Ask our two congressional candidates about these issues. I wonder if they even know what PINS stands for.
What about the homeless epidemic? I thought homelessness was not a problem in Suffolk County. A recent series of articles in Newsday indicates that our county is housing record numbers of homeless families in costly motels because of the lack of shelters and affordable housing. Talk about cost - what about the children in these motels who need to be educated? What about the cost to transport them? Who pays for all of that?
These questions only touch the tip of the iceberg. Our whole approach to human services is scandalous. The money we spend is unbelievable. The return on our money is deeply disturbing. We need to rid the social services system of all the unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, bag the patronage jobs and redirect those monies to staff salaries. You cannot run human and social services like corporate businesses. That approach has clearly failed in this county.
If the true story were to be told about what is going on with the poor in Suffolk County, most rank and file, tax-paying people would be shocked and appalled.
The poor in our county, especially the young (sixteen to twenty-one) are being abused and taken advantage of at every turn. Poor people are big business. Lots of people are getting rich by exploiting the poor.
We don't hear more about this because they are the voiceless with no fixed address who during an election year, few running for public office ever care about.

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