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A Movement of Moral Engineers. A reflection on the State of the State

"Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Continuing The Movement: Remembering Rev Dr Martin Luther King

On Monday, January 17th the New York State Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival convened a meeting - through its state wide faith committee - to lift up the plans, programs and works of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to recommit ourselves to continuing his vision by building a movement to end poverty.

The meeting was joined by our executive director, Rev. West McNeill, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, board members Kelly Smith, Arelis Figeroa, Rev. Andrew Wilkes and over 100 others.

Rev. Andrew Wilkes shared some opening remarks:

“My hope is that we can continue to embody, not only moral presence, but also this moral engineering. Dr. King modeled this tradition by faithfully demanding a freedom budget, alongside the late Phillip Randolph, calling for full employment, calling for guaranteed annual incomes and an economic bill of rights for the disadvantaged. King embodied this kind of moral engineering along with Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and Dorothy Height, faithfully demanding an architecture of voting rights and political participation. King embodied a moral imagination rooted in the sense of the inherent worth and dignity of all humans.

Gov. Hochul’s First Legislative Session Begins

Reflection from Rev. West McNeill, Executive Director:

The opening of the 2022 NYS Legislative Session marked a new post-Cuomo era -- and if Gov. Hochul follows through on her pledge to be more transparent, accountable, and collaborative, it will be a positive step for our notoriously dysfunctional and scandal-plagued state government.

However, the more pressing question for the nearly 50 percent of New Yorkers who are poor and low-income is how Gov. Hochul’s policy agenda will compare to her predecessor. Gov. Cuomo was a champion of austerity, and his 11-year tenure left behind even deeper inequality, a weakened safety net, and under-resourced public goods and services.

In Gov. Hochul’s Jan. 5 State of the State address she spoke of a “New Era for New York,” but the policies she outlined in that speech and her newly released Executive Budget fail to meet the crises and opportunities of this moment. For example, in her State of the State Gov. Hochul identified homelessness as a “humanitarian crisis unfolding before us,” but she allowed New York’s eviction moratorium to expire just days later, putting tens of thousands more New Yorkers at risk of losing their homes. The housing policy solutions she proposes in her budget fall far short of what is needed to house New Yorkers and what organizations of tenants and the unhoused are demanding.

Healthcare is another area that Gov. Hochul has identified as a priority, and yet she won’t embrace the necessary policy solutions already on the table. Even as she acknowledged the crisis in our state’s home care system, for example, her budget rejected the broadly supported Fair Pay for Home Care framework, instead proposing a more limited response that won’t meet the needs of seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers. Similarly, even as she claims that expanding healthcare access is a priority, she remains silent on the New York Health Act - the one policy that would truly guarantee universal coverage (and which already has a majority of cosponsors in both the Senate and Assembly).

As this new legislative session gets underway it is deeply apparent that it is up to us to build a movement that is powerful enough to force political will and clarity where there is none. It is up to us to build a society rooted in moral imagination and moral engineering, a society which honors the inherent dignity and worth of all people. We have the solutions. It is our task to build a powerful movement with - in the words of Martin Luther King - “the ability, the togetherness, the assertiveness, and the aggressiveness to make the power structure of this nation [and state] say yes when they may be desirous to say no.”

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