Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MLK 2011 -- Building on the Dream


(Click on photos for larger view. All photos copyright 2011)

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2011, I am mindful that it is now 42 years since Reverend King was struck down but that our struggle for equality for all continues.

I attended two Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations in my district that were especially meaningful because they were symbols of what Reverend King stood for:  creating opportunities for a more just society in the future.

The first, held on Sunday, January 16th, was organized by Habitat for Humanity and held at PS 54 in Bedford Stuyvesant. Habitat for Humanity has built thousands of affordable housing units mostly with volunteer labor organized in communities around the world, literally Building the Dream. 

But there was more. The whole program was centered around commemorating Dr. King in recitations by students of the school 

as well as in cultural expressions by young dancers from the school... 

...from the Restoration Dance Company...

...and with music from the Young Acolytes of St. Stevens Steel Drum Band.  

The faces of the audience say everything about the power of this commemoration.

The event the following day, January 17th, was a basketball tournament organized by the Brothers of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter “Brooklyn Omega," that combines sports with social responsibility. All the men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a historically black fraternal organization, are college educated and a great role model for the young men who competed at MS 113 in Fort Greene.  Among them is Robert Cornegy, an elected official Democratic State Committee Man. The fraternity promotes social and cultural programs that help to uplift communities. 

These are not large events, but they are meaningful because they educate young people about the meaning of this special holiday and Dr. King who fought for a better future for coming generations. It has been my privilege to support these organizations and I am grateful for having been part of these events which have shown me that we continue Building on the Dream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day, #22

Dear Neighbors,

Today is the 22nd observance of World AIDS Day.

Many of you have grown up in a world where this terrible disease has always been a fact of life. But it hasn’t always been here, and it won’t be around forever. There have been remarkable acheivements that have allowed for long term survivors, and more discoveries are just around the corner. But at the same time, the number of people contracting this preventable disease continues to climb around the world, in every country, throughout all societies. Gay, straight, young, old, black, white…AIDS doesn’t discriminate.

Please, do your part to end AIDS.
  •  Educate yourself. There’s no fooling around about this, and you can’t depend something you heard from someone. Learn the facts.
  •   Protect yourself. For the most part this is a preventable condition. Learn how to avoid it.
  •   Get tested. The days of stigma are behind us. Knowing if you have AIDS allows you to get treatment, and keeps it from spreading further.
  •  Get treatment, and stick with it! There are programs that make maintaining your health affordable. And not taking care of yourself is just too high a price to pay.
  • Be good to each other. Kindness is catching. Mother Teresa once said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis <or AIDS>, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

I hope this day, and tomorrow, and all the days after find all of you and your loved ones in the best of health.


NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
18th NYS Senate District 

Monday, November 1, 2010



Voters in Queens (11th NYS Senate District) have an opportunity to do themselves and the rest of NY State a big favor by sending Tony Avella to the NYS Senate! Tony has been a courageous voice for his district while he was in the NYC Council and will bring that same courage and integrity to the NYS Senate! See what Senator Montgomery had to say about Tony during a recent rally, in the YouTube segment below. 

And get out and VOTE on November 2nd! Column A, all the way!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank You All! Now the Work Continues

Senator Montgomery, the morning after her stunning 4 to 1 victory over her well-financed opponent in yesterday's primary, sent this blog the following statement:

"I would like to thank all the people of the 18th District for again giving me the opportunity to work for them in the New York State Senate. Despite the silly misrepresentations and personal attacks the opposing camp sunk to in the final week, I had confidence in the intelligence, commitment and heart of the voters in Brooklyn. We're smarter than that and better than that. We're not about big money interests; we're about our families and doing the right thing for everybody, here, upstate, and around the world. With the support of people of that integrity and quality, the outcome was never in doubt! So again I humbly thank you, and look forward to the important work we have in front of us."

This blog will continue as a public communication from Senator Montgomery to the 18th District. We look forward to many years to come!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's Clean Up Some Smears...

Senator Montgomery's primary challenger, who initially promised a "respectful" campaign (and that lasted about a quick sneeze, didn't it?) has gone totally dirty with a mailer sent out under his name. (It's still unclear how much control he has over his own campaign and how much he's being controlled by the Charter School HedgeHogs who are bankrolling him. If he's a puppet, he's certainly a willing puppet, and we can't have that in the Senate, ever!)

In this sleazy mailer, in addition to the typical foggy nothing statements about his goals, background, and beliefs, readers are for some reason treated to some juvenile artwork about the 80's. Maybe he has fond memories of that decade. BUT...then there are some serious misstatements about a tiny fraction of Senator Montgomery's voting record. Let's clean up those smears.

“Senate Bill 6418A: Making it a crime to cause the death of a person by the sale of a controlled substance.” (2010)
Mr. Pollard doesn’t mention that the bill only addresses one controlled substance: heroin. Not that being more specific would have improved the bill…
This bill was a double stinker.
1. It’s based on the misconception that increasing the penalties for drug use and sale actually acts as a deterrent. It has been solidly proven that beyond a much lower threshold this is not the case. It is Rockefeller Drug Law thinking. The bill was opposed by the NY Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance on that basis.
2. It already IS a crime to cause the death of anyone by any means! This is the kind of grandstanding duplicative legislation the 2004 Brennan Center report roasted NYS on, and the Senator is very careful not to support this sort of bad legislation. Not only is it duplicative but it burdens the courts and sometimes creates loopholes in existing laws.

“Senate Bill 1862: Establishing the crime of facilitating a sexual performance by a child with a controlled substance or alcohol.” (2008)         
Again, a totally duplicative law. It’s already criminal to offer a minor alcohol or a controlled sustance for ANY reason, and of course sexual performance by a minor (kiddy porn) is a high crime. This bill adds nothing but deadweight to the legal system and may, in the hands of a clever defense attorney, offer a loophole in pleading for clemency before a jury. “At least I didn’t use alcohol…!” Stranger pleas have been made because of deadwood like this.

“Senate Bill 1687: Prohibitting a sex offender from being granted unsupervised visitation with a child.” (2010)          
This bill never made it out of Committee. It is also grossly simplified and mischaracterized by Pollard. The bill didn’t just address visitation, it forbade custody of children by a sex offender. The definition of sex offender is distressingly broad and many times does not focus on children. This bill would have unnecessarily required the breaking up of families. If a man (or woman) is convicted of hiring a prostitute they are technically a sex offender: under this bill anyone so labelled would lose custody of their children. Can you say “Elliott Spitzer?”

“Senate Bill 406: Increasing penalties for those convicted of sex crimes where the victim is less than eleven years old.” (2009)        
This bill never made it out of committee. No credible evidence was presented that passage of the bill (which merely increases penalties for already existing violations of the criminal code) would do anything to deter the offenses or make children safer in any way. And the provisions stipulated would have been enormously expensive.
In addition it would have limited a judge’s discretion in sentencing. Any judge can increase penalties with good cause unless restricted by legislation: this sort of bill would require actions that may not be indicated and preclude other actions by a judge. The Senator routinely opposes bills that limit judicial sentencing discretion, like the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It’s somewhat surprising that a supposed defense attorney like Mr. Pollard would argue against judicial discretion…

“Senate Bill 6259: Requiring transfer of campaign funds to the state treasury or a charitable organization upon the death of an elected official” (2010)
The Senator argued that the funds should first be returned to the people who donated to the campaign, or that the donors should be part of the discretionary decisions.

“Senate Bill 1319B: Mandating life imprisonment without parole for a conviction of a murder committed in the course of a sex crime where the victim is less than fourteen years old.” (2004)
 Again, a grandstanding duplicative bill. “Joan’s Law.” Murder during a sex crime is mandatory life sentence regardless of age. There were other technical problems with the bill, which BTW the Assembly never passed.

“Senate Bill 3479A: Providing that assaults against MTA employees be classified as criminal assaults.” (2003)             
This bill also contained a curious removal of the publication requirement advertising the higher penalty, which might have acted as a deterrent. Instead, it was fashioned as a “gotcha” law for prosecutors. So, no deterrence, more prosecution. Hard to defend that and again, a possible loophole for a clever defense attorney.

Smears. Slimy and desperate. And such a good use of Charter School money!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

REAL Facts About REAL Albany Reform!

"Albany is dysfunctional and needs reform! Now!"

You certainly won't get any argument from Senator Montgomery! Throughout her career she has worked against the stranglehold of dysfunction engineered by  the Republican party over the last 70 years.

In 2004  the NYU Brennan Center for Social Justice published a damning assessment of the state of the Legislature, and over half of its recommendations have been acted on by the Senate in the last 2 years. This is despite the attempts by the Republican party to turn back the clock by disrupting the process last year and hypocritically refusing to enact further reforms, all the while cheering on so-called reform advocates who have their own agendas.

There has been more positive reform in the New York Senate in the last 18 months than in the previous 72 years. Those are the facts.

The Way Things Were...
It was a complete and total mess. Nothing was able to be voted on unless the Republican Majority Leader allowed it on the floor. Committees were toothless. The only power a Democratic Senator had in that system was negotiation and the persuasion of a principled argument. Even during this difficult time Senator Montgomery was able to effectively represent the people of her District through her drive and her unimpeachable character. It was during this difficult period that Senator Montgomery was first called the Conscience of the Senate.

...What It Cost...
It cost us all plenty, both upstate and in New York City. Billions of dollars that should have been used downstate were redirected to benefit connected upstate political patrons. Unregulated suburban sprawl bankrupted and emptied upstate cities while requiring billions from New York State for infrastructure investments which primarily benefited real estate developers. Upstate economies were ruined by a profound lack of vision and a neglect of productive development; farms and manufacturing were sent out of state and replaced with a new type of farm--prisons and  "youth camps" filled with the poor of greater New York City swept up in the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws and inequitable judicial practices. And the legislature was twisted into the knot that is still being untied.

...And What Still Needs Doing
The ethics reforms passed by the Senate have been vetoed by the Governor, and the Republicans who initially voted for the package flip-flopped away from reform when it came time to overcome that veto. Hopefully the new governor will see the value in these bills when they are re-introduced in the next session.

Redistricting reform is long overdue! Senator Montgomery has long said that if there had been a fair and independent process for drawing legislative districts, the Democrats would have controlled the Senate by the year 2000. (FYI, the majority party redraws the lines under the current system, and while upstate counties seem to have some geographic coherence, the Republican Majority went to absurd lengths to cobble together districts to enhance their elections chances.) The formation of a redistricting process that ensures fairness and accountability, and that does not devolve into some level of "shadow government" is as complicated as it is necessary. Senator Montgomery shares the concerns the Brennan Center voiced in an April letter to Mayor Koch (which has never gotten a public response) concerning the difficulties in getting this exactly right, and she is committed to ensuring its development.

Anyone can sign a flawed paper and be called a hero. But it's years of experience, commitment, sacrifice, and outstanding ethics that make a real hero, like Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

Friday, September 3, 2010

More Endorsements!

Individuals and organizations from across the State are coming together to support Senator Montgomery's re-election! Please visit our Endorsement page (on the tab above) to see the most up-to-date list and to see the wonderful things they have said in their endorsement letters!