Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cahill Grant... Separation of Church and State... No Chapter 9 Bankruptcy... My Thoughts... Your Thoughts... Oh What a Wicked Web...

[Photo by NS]

Excuse me, but...

The City of Kingston is apparently existing on borrowed money [a huge bond, actually]...

Some City of Kingston representatives are seriously considering a Chapter Nine Bankruptcy - which will - as I understand it - reduce all of our services to the very basics [police, fire, sanitation, basic needs, safety needs...] and bring in [if I understand this right] a State audit...

And --- I pick up today's "Daily Freeman" [online link provided below] to discover that Assemblyman Kevin Cahill has secured a $2.15 million dollar grant to renovate [one building, to reputedly employ 25 "permanent staff members", serve 50 children, provide basketball and other sports facilities for Catholic youth, host a food pantry, and provide offices for Catholic Charities - at the old St. Peter's School?

2.15 Million Dollars!?!

For ONE building [which is going to be duplicating (in essense) a lot of other services (religious and non) that are already in place...] in a City [... in a state? ... in a nation?] that is facing potential bankruptcy?

What - might I ask - is UP with THAT? [My blog... my opinions...]

The organizations involved - apparently benefiting (in some manner) from collaborating on this project and receiving this grant - include:

1. The Catholic Archdiocese of New York
2. St. Mary's Parish
3. St. Peter's Parish
4. The Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O); and...
5. Agri-Business Child Development

To what ends?

The Catholic Archdiocese of New York seems to be doing quite well for itself [in terms of money, power and influence...] already.

St. Mary's Parish appears to be doing quite well for itself (comparative to a lot of other religious and non-religious organizations locally) already.

St. Peter's Parish [if this even made logical sense...] is [in my opinion] in a very bad location for this type of project / renovation.

The CYO apparently serves only Catholic youth - providing (in the US) mainly prayer, missionary and sports programs for young Catholics that have --- according to the writeup in "Wikipedia" --- been (this, in regard to the sports programs) deemed: "so competitive that CYO has been jokingly described as 'Crush Your Opponents'" ["Catholic Youth Organization"; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Youth_Organization; 12/3/09]

Agri-Business Child Development apparently only provides early education services [inclusive of Migrant & Agricultural Workers Programs and Seasonal Head Start Programs] to children [aged 6 weeks to school age] to families that meet the following eligibility criteria:

a. They must be the children of migrant, seasonal and/or agricultural / farm workers

b. They must also meet certain finalial eligibility requirements; and...

c. They must meet a host of other eligibility criteria - narrowing the field of potentialities considerably... along with [I would say...] duplicating services that the City and/or County already has in place... [http://www.agri-business.org/whoweare.html; http://www.agri-business.org/missionvisionvalues.html; http://www.agri-business.org/eligibilitycriteria.html]

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A nearly bankrupt city...

A 2.15 Million Dollar Grant for the renovation [etc] of one building that will apparently be serving a very select population that is already being served [and/or certainly could be served...] by other community organizations [that have no "religious missionary" ends in mind...].

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And --- might there be some other potential problems in this mix?

Former President George W. Bush Jr. - via executive order [12/12/02] - granted some special privileges to religious orders; including:

The right to discriminate - in regard to religion - when hiring employees.

Carey Construction of Kingston [Did bids go out on this? Do grants of this nature require taking the lowest bid out of a number of bids? Is there religious discrimination in regard to hiring in this mix? [Carey Construction apparently did the restoration work on City Hall (Why not City Employees?) as well...] has [back to Carey Construction...] apparently already been named the "prime contractor" for the local [St. Peters...] renovation...

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No more Bush Jr.

Right?

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But the Congressional Budget Office [in the early 1990s] estimated that "the cost to the government of Faith-Based-related programs" [The above reflects a mix, but an off-balance mix, to be sure...] would topple over the $13 Billion mark by 2011.

["Bush Orders Faith-Based Initiative Forward... Faith-based groups can hire based in religion"; Dateline: 12/13/02; Longley, Robert; About.com US Government Info; http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa121302.HRM?P=1]

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In July 2008, President Barack Obama (via Executive Order) modified and extended the Office of Faith Based Initiatives - renaming it the "Faith-Based Community Service Plan" and/or the "White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships" - with modifications that included the following:

1. Secular Community Service Organizations were to be granted equal chances [in tandem with Faith-Based Programs] to obtain grants.

2. Stronger prohibitions were put in place prohibiting "faith-based organizations" from utilizing their programs for proselytizing or religious instruction

3. Prohibitions against discrimination in regard to potential and/or in facto program participants were put in place.

4. "'Best practices' benchmarks and a periodic evaluation of every such program based on "same" were put in place.

5. A $500 Million Dollar (per year) plan "for a summer literacy program... for one million children from low-income families each year" - was added on.

[Deborah White, About.com; "Barack Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan"; http://jsliberals.about.com/od/faithinpubliclife/a/ObamaFthBsd.html; 12/3/09]

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Now, what does all of that mean in looking at the current fiscal situation and the faith-based and secular organizations in our City?

What does this say about this $2.15 Mil. Grant for the renovation, etc. of St. Peters?


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For me it means that I have moved my position --- from someone that was starting to think [after attending a lot of related City / Municipality / Citizen-based meetings; listening, with an open mind to all parties involved; staying up to date on the news; engaging in note taking and my own (at times extensive) research --- that the Chapter 9 Bankruptcy option might be the best way for the City of Kingston to go [in regard to the 2010 Budget Crisis] --- to someone that is 100% AGAINST the idea of the City of Kingston filing for a Chapter 9 Bankruptcy!

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Why?

Because the deck appears to be stacked any way you look at it...

The rules we live by certainly don't appear to be fair and equitable... [But could be WORSE!]

Safety, infrastructure, education and the maintanence of our basic human rights are (for me) priority issues...

And - after reading about this grant?????

I believe we must maintain our secular government options and services AT ALL COSTS - so as not to leave the door open so wide that our education and service programs --- are allowed to become monopolized by any religious body (s) or organization (s) in this City!

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It is stated, in Barack Obama's "Faith-Based Community Service and Literacy Plan" that any organization that receives Federal grant monies from "same" can only "use taxpayer dollars on secular programs and initiatives" - that these organizations cannot discriminate in hiring or in providing services - and that these organizations cannot "use federal funds to proselytize or provide religious sectarian instruction" [Deborah White, About.com; "Barack Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan"; http://jsliberals.about.com/od/faithinpubliclife/a/ObamaFthBsd.html; 12/3/09].

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To wrap up...

Take a look at the state that the City of Kingston is in.

Take a look at the state that the State of New York is in.

Take a look at the state that the United States of America is in.

Take a look at what "separation of church and state" ["US Constitution" and "Bill of Rights" is (or should be?) all about...

And ask yourself if the following individuals - appointed in Feb 2009 by President Barack Obama to the "White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships" - reflect the necessary diversity - at the highest (not to mention local issues...) levels (?) --- or whether this White House Office has continued to take us all down a track that could lead --- if unchecked at the local, state and federal levels --- to a total societal breakdown and a religious [Do you like your human rights? Your freedom of choice? Your ability to express your opinions? Your ability to participate in a Democracy? The freedom to choose your own faith (or non) and practice same?] dictatorship...

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Members (when first initiated; these were initially one year terms) of the "White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships" Council:

A. Representing Religious Bodies:

1. Joshua DuBois [Advisor to the President; Campaign Director of Religious Affairs; Former Associate Pastor]

2. Father Larry J. Snyder [Catholic Charities USA (President); Alexandria, West Virginia.

3. Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie [African Methodist Episcopal Church (Presiding Bishop /
13th Episcopal District); Knoxville, TN]

4. Dr. Frank S. Page [Southern Baptist Convention (President Emeritus); Taylors, SC]

5. Dr. William J. Shaw [National Baptist Convention, USA (President); Philadelphia, PA]

6. Reverend Otis Moss Jr. [Olivet Institutional Baptist Church (Pastor Emeritus); Cleveland, Ohio]

7. Reverend Jim Wallis [Sojourners (President and Executive Director); Washington DC]

8. Pastor Joel C. Hunter ["Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed); Lakeland FL]

9. Rabbi David N. Saperstein [Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and "noted" [Without bias?] "church/state expert" (Director and Counsel of...); Washington, DC]

10. Eboo S. Patel [Interfaith Youth Corps (Founder and Executive Director); Chicago, IL]

11. Melissa Rogers [Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and [Without bias?] "expert on church/state issues"; Winston-Salem, NC]

12. Richard Steams [World Vision (President); Bellevue, Washington]http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/getinvolved/church-faith

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B. Representing Secular and/or Intermediary Bodies:

1. Judith N. Vredenburgh [Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America (President and Chief Executive Officer); Philadelphia, PA]

2. Fred Davie [Public/Private Ventures, a "secular non-profit intermediary" (President); New York, New York]

3. Dr. Arturo Chaez [Mexican-American Cultural Center (President and CEO); San Antonio, TX]

4. Diane Baillargeon [Seedco, "a secular national operating intermediary" (President / CEO); New York, New York]

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See, it sure looks to me (from the onset) like the game plan of this White House Office [I still "love" Obama (in the best sense of the word) --- but I think he needs to "step up to the plate" in some areas...) was 12 organizations representing religious bodies --- versus 4 organizations with alleged secular and/or intermediary missions [headed up by persons whose faith alliance (if any) is currently un-known].

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Whatever the case [Let it be known that I am not anti-religious or opposed to any particular body of faith...] --- it is my opinion that:

1. The Federal, State and Local Government should be providing ample funds for our infrastructure, our safety, our children's education and our (multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith and non-religious) citizens - with no special interests [religious or non] taking center stage - PERIOD.

2. This 2.15 Million Grant secured by Assemblyman Cahill [always associated with some ever-elusive "Friends of Public Access" (FOPA) mega-grant, as well...] for the renovation etc. of St. Peters is way out of line to begin with - and is especially so in light of the City, County, State and Federal fiscal crisis! And...

3. To return to where I started...

That the City of Kingston (a secular municipality that has bodies of faith associated with it) should NOT file for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy when this would potentially give all of the money and power in this City to the Catholic (and/or other faith bodies, whom I do not have this degree of data on...) Church!


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Sources:

"Daily Freeman" Article: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2009/12/03/news/doc4b1743808aa49059359163.txt

"St Peters Cahill Grant to breathe new life into former St. Peter’s School"; http://www.midhudsonnews.com/News/2009/December09/03/StPeters_conv-03Dec09.html

Others are as noted in the writeup...

And many other sources exist (although none perhaps as great as those within your own heart, mind and soul...) as well.

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As always, feel free to correct me (I will check your input out) -- and or update me (ditto).

NS

3 comments:

NS said...

I've changed some things in the comment section here, hoping that it will work out (apparently some people haven't been able to post) better for some.

Thank you,

NS

gerald said...

yep, it works. your article is long and it takes a while to scroll to the end.

NS said...

Yep. This was the longest online article I think I've ever written - and it wasn't an easy one - to be sure.

Thanks. I guess I should have checked out how well the posting factor was working out a while ago, but I didn't because a few posts - here and there - were getting through.