A Message from
Greetings 141st District Family!
It is indeed a pleasure for me to acknowledge some of the successes of the past year. Last summer and fall, I tackled issues including healthcare reform, environmental justice, preparation of school-aged children for school, equitable opportunities for women and minority business enterprises and disparate treatment of the poor and minorities by financial service institutions. Since my last newsletter, I have been busy at work, fighting for much needed funding for education, critical health care resources to sustain quality care, and sound policy and legislation to assure that Buffalo’s issues remain at the forefront in Albany.
In this newsletter edition, you will have the opportunity to learn about some of my priorities at the close of last year, each article representing a special interest for our district. Also in this edition, I extend congratulations to Dr. Wesley Hicks of the University at Buffalo, who is making his mark in academia, and report on the progress of an important environmental project in our region.
Although much was accomplished, there is still an aggressive agenda that lies ahead for this current legislative session. As we move forward, I have continued my deliberation on the content of health care reform and policy, secured key funding for infrastructural improvements within the City of Buffalo and introduced critical legislation to address the issues that plague Buffalo’s economic future. The legislation that I am spearheading focuses on various issues, ranging from Buffalo’s consumerism to curtailing the pervasive theft and trade of copper and other recyclable metals to scrap dealers. Although these bills are still underway, I believe that much headway will be achieved, making some considerable improvements in the economic framework for the City of Buffalo. The progress of our legislative agenda will be announced in our next newsletter edition.
As I close, I am reminded of the strength and character of our community, as was evidenced with the heroic efforts during the “Surprise October Storm.” Buffalonians went the extra mile; many volunteered to support the Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center, assisted the elderly with debris removal and supported neighbors in various ways during that difficult time. It is with the fortitude and spirit of Buffalonians that I gain strength to travel to Albany every week, stand up for what’s right and remain committed to bringing everyone along: the poor, elderly, children, mentally ill, physically disabled and working families – everyone who is a part of this great community.
Let us continue to work together against all odds to build a better city, where we can live healthy, work productively and raise our families peacefully.
Assemblymember Peoples Proud of
As a member of the NYS Assembly’s Environmental Committee, Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples (141st A.D.) is proud that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 has completed the final phase of cleanup at the former Sweet Kleen Laundry, located at 760 Kensington Avenue. The Sweet Kleen Laundry facility once was a two-acre commercial laundry operation that opened in 1925 and then was abandoned in the early 1990’s.
“This cleanup is one step in the right direction towards an environmentally safe Buffalo. I am pleased that EPA is helping us in our efforts to correct the damage and contamination that has plagued our neighborhoods over the past few decades,” Assemblymember Peoples said.
Phase 1 of the cleanup was completed in 2005 with the demolition of a 100-foot chimney and removal of on-site buildings, asbestos and over 49 drums of waste products and electrical transformers. The debris was then taken to a variety of off-site disposal facilities.
The second phase of cleanup, which was completed in September 2006, removed contaminated soils containing a common dry cleaning solvent known as perchlorethylene. Five hundred tons of contaminated soil was disposed of at two disposal facilities off-site. EPA has not indicated that the residences and the surrounding area have been impacted as a result of the site.
The City of Buffalo recently attained the property and associated buildings through foreclosure. With the assistance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the City of Buffalo secured EPA’s help in conducting the cleanup, a major breakthrough for Buffalo.
‘Healthcare is of the utmost importance’ was the theme for many Western New Yorkers as the recommendations from the New York State Commission on Healthcare Facilities went public on November 28, 2006. Before the recommendations were announced, there was concern over whether Erie County Medical Center would remain open or be forced to close. Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples recognized the need for action and on Friday, November 24, 2006, Assemblymember Peoples organized a group of concerned community activists, elected officials, residents and clergymen to rally in support of Erie County Medical Center.
The commission announced its recommendation for Kaleida Health and ECMC to merge. As a result, there is concern that the necessity for this public hospital will be even greater and will severely affect indigent communities, changing the way healthcare is delivered on Buffalo’s financially troubled eastside. “ECMC is the community’s hospital,” said Assemblymember Peoples. “I truly hope that this merger has a positive outcome on healthcare service delivery and the impacted citizens.”
The report from the Commission was approved by Governor Pataki. The NYS Legislature had until the December 31, 2006 deadline to reject the report in its entirety with a majority vote in both houses. Inaction by the Legislature made the Berger recommendations law. Several hospitals in New York State intend to file a lawsuit against the Commission, the Department of Health and the Governor. The Commission’s full report is available on the Commission website at www.nyhealthcarecommission.org.
FINANCES THAT MATTER
Concerns Affecting our Consumers
“Instant money, faster than Uncle Sam,” is the tagline used by some commercial tax preparers to encourage consumers to borrow against the value of their anticipated income tax refund. As millions of struggling New Yorkers look forward to tax season and receiving their tax refunds, Assemblymember Peoples, cautions consumers against borrowing rapid refund loans. These ‘refund anticipation loans’ or RALs, as they are known, are short-term, high interest loans that prey on the working poor.
A vicious cycle occurs when taxpayers eager to receive their refunds, receive money from these loans only to be charged from 40%-700% annually in interest, depending on the amount of the loan. These loans, which are usually processed for $30- $120, last between 7 to 14 days until the actual IRS refund repays the loan. In addition, the tax preparers charge administrative, electronic filing and application fees. However, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), taxpayers can receive a fast and free refund by using electronic filing and having their funds deposited directly into their own bank account without taking out a loan.
In response to the overwhelming number of people being abused by this system, Assemblymember Peoples has signed on to a bill introduced by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz (84th A.D., Bronx, NY) to amend the banking law and regulate the offering of refund anticipation loans. The proposed bill A.01794 requires that at the time a borrower applies for a refund anticipation loan, a facilitator must disclose to the borrower detailed information regarding fees, rates and repayment schedules. “I am pleased that the Assembly is recognizing the need to provide greater protections for consumers against exorbitant fees and high-priced, unnecessary rapid refund loans that prey on the working poor,” Assemblymember Peoples said.
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Responds to Outcry by Low-income Consumers
Assemblymember Peoples hosted a public hearing to discuss inequities associated with low-income consumers. Held at the Frank E. Merriweather Library on Jefferson Avenue, the hearing entitled, Financial Services for Low-income Consumers, was facilitated by Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Audrey Pheffer, 23rd A.D, and Banks Committee Chair Darryl Towns, 54th A.D. This hearing was organized in response to Assemblymember Peoples’ advocacy in the Assembly on behalf of the range of issues facing low-income Buffalonians. The hearing examined a range of issues affecting the banking needs of low-income consumers and was well attended by a cross-section of representatives from the banking industry, consumer groups, government agencies, affected consumers and many others.
Pheffer, Towns and other attendees heard testimony on the variety of challenges and pitfalls facing consumers who do not have access to traditional banking services and are, therefore, forced to rely on non-bank entities as check cashing facilities and rent-to-own businesses. Also brought to the attention of participants were the dangers related to “payday loans” and short term, high-cost home loans that are typically offered to low-income consumers with hefty fees and high interest rates.
“With the deck stacked against them and with limited information and limited options, low-income families turn to alternative financial institutions at the risk of higher costs for service. Knowing this vulnerability, rent-to-own and check cashing facilities impose predatory practices on low-income consumers that impede their already limited cash resources with higher fees and interest rates. This keeps the poor in poverty,” stated Assemblymember Peoples.
The following week after hearing some disturbing testimony from victimized consumers and constituents, Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples sponsored two critical bills (A.230 and A.592) that will provide greater protections for consumers in rental purchase agreements. These bills will also offer more disclosure to consumers regarding the amount, number and times at which various payments, relating to rental agreements, are due and delinquent. In addition, the bills will establish vital provisions for the method and information required to be disclosed in advertising for such agreements. Also, of great importance in the pending legislation is the right to reinstate repossessed merchandise.
“Everyday, low-income consumers have to make critical choices in order to make ends meet – whether or not to pay for medication, a light bill, or even worse, their rent. With limited finances, they are in dire straits; and with a low credit score many are considered “too risky” for traditional banking and financial services. That is why the state government has to take a proactive role in implementing safeguards to protect vulnerable consumers.”
Assemblymember Peoples has also co-sponsored a bill that will invoke penalties for violations relating to licensing and practices of check cashers, namely unlicensed check cashers. This bill (A.11353) seeks to address the ongoing problem of entities operating without the required license and regulatory oversight from the State.
“Under my watch, I am going to remain focused on the unscrupulous, unregulated and unlicensed check cashers that prey on the poor. I am going to keep a close eye on the problem and demand resolution. I am standing up on behalf of my constituents to make sure that meaningful protections are in place to remedy this pervasive injustice. The fight has just begun,” stated Assemblymember Peoples.
Assemblymember Peoples Emcees at Buffalo Niagara Partnership Minority Business of the Year Awards Ceremony
Assemblymember Crystal Peoples, chair of the NYS Assembly’s Subcommittee on the Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, served as the emcee for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Business of the Year Awards Luncheon on November 13, 2006. The luncheon was attended by more than 175 local business people.
A ‘matchmaking fair’ was held in the morning to join area minority and women-owned suppliers with procurement officers from major local corporations. Andrew J. Rudnick, President and CEO of the Partnership stated that one of the fastest growing business segments are minority and women-owned businesses. The sponsors for the Minority Business of the Year were Key Bank, PrintEFX and television stations, WUTV and MyTV.
The Partnership’s Minority Business Development Council conducted a competitive nomination and selection process for the four awards given each year; Minority Business of the Year; New Minority Business of the Year; Women-Owned Business of the Year; and Minority Volunteer of the Year.
With over 20 years of business in Western New York, President and Founder, Edward O. Watts was awarded Minority Business of the Year award for the success of Watts Engineering and Architecture.
A business that continues to grow exponentially would be the best way to describe Exigence, run by Dr. Gregory Daniel, who provides comprehensive emergency department services, including more than 190,000 ER visits annually to several states. The business is consistently lowering its costs and establishing a dynamic business under the direction of Dr. Daniel.
Continuing to make strides in a male-dominated industry is why Infinity Glass & Restoration, LLC and its owner Gina Paigen have received the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Women-owned Business of the Year award.
Mr. Daniel Workman, Jr. received the Minority Volunteer of the Year award after decades of providing service and unselfish community involvement while working at M&T Bank for 32 years. “This celebration is indicative of the competence, fortitude and promise of minority and women-owned businesses,” stated Assemblymember Peoples. The Assemblymember further stated, “It was my pleasure to be a part of this joyous occasion and add my voice to the chorus of congratulations. This marks a new beginning for Buffalo’s minority and women businesses.”
Assemblymember Peoples Proud
Assemblymember Peoples is proud to congratulate Dr. Wesley Hicks on UB’s Faculty in Leadership program. University at Buffalo recently announced their selection of four senior faculty members to participate in the 2006-2007 class for the Faculty in Leadership program. Hicks is an African-American professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute
The faculty chosen are paired with a senior member of the administration from both the President and Provost offices. During the course of the program, they will conduct projects that range from undergraduate education and professional development to translational research and UB’s 2020 strategic planning initiative. “I’m so proud to congratulate Dr. Hicks on his achievement and pleased that UB recognizes the need for minority representation in its leadership programs. It is vital for the community to see diversity both in the faculty and in its student population,” Assemblymember Peoples commented.
For the last four years, Dr. Hicks has been a member of the advisory board for the Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) program. Hicks said, “There is a need at UB to further coordinate resources to reach the goals of STOR and other programs devoted to translational research, the organization of people and resources across disciplines to develop strategies that address complex health-care issues.” Hicks’ long-standing academic and clinical interest in translational research, prompted his involvement in the Faculty in Leadership Program. “I applied to the program to broaden my knowledge of university resources and enhance my personal administrative skills,” he added.
Dr. Hicks states, “We require a formal administrative infrastructure that unites the work and resources of the clinically based units—medicine, dentistry, nursing, occupational and physical therapy—with those of the other science disciplines on the various university campuses, such as the North Campus and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.”
The program provides a unique opportunity for faculty members to take an active role in the university’s administration without a complete shift in their professional commitments. Participants receive a part-time release from teaching while gaining the opportunity to assess whether an administrative career is compatible with their professional goals and skills.
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Hosted 2nd Annual “Parent Power” Conference with Mayor Byron W. Brown
The City of Buffalo’s Mayor Byron W. Brown and Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples sponsored their 2nd Annual “Parent Power” Conference on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at the Metro-Community Delavan/Grider Center. The conference entitled, “Partnering for the Best Educational Opportunities,” focused on strengthening the communication between our students, schools, parents and the community to promote academic success.
Folasade Oladele, the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum Development for the Buffalo Public School system delivered a rousing keynote address that set the tone for the insightful conference. The diverse group of presenters included Thelma Roberts, Homespace Corporation; Dr. Pamela Johnson, WNED ThinkBright TV; Christopher Tillman, Failure Free Reading; and Janique S. Curry, Central District School Board member. The presenters facilitated various workshops; topics included parental involvement, digital media resources, afterschool tutoring and college preparation to provide parents with vital information for the future success of their children.
The conference, both well received and attended, was concluded with questions and concerns from parents on the availability of resources to aid them as they encourage and support their children and reinforce the value of higher education.
The event sponsors, Key Bank, Univera Healthcare and TOPS Markets, contributed greatly to the success of the event while vendors supplied school supplies, bookbags and informational pamphlets.
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Secures $15,000 Grant for Saint Columba-Brigid Teen Center In Honor of Sister Karen Klimczak
Friday, November 17, 2006 was a great day for the Saint Columba-Brigid Teen Center after being presented with a $15,000 check from Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples (141st A.D.). The center, located in the Ellicott District, was awarded a grant from the NYS Department of Justice in honor of Sister Karen Klimczak, a community hero, whose lifework impacted Buffalonians from all walks of life.
The funding was allocated to the Teen Center, as a result of Assemblymember Peoples’ efforts and will help provide much-needed upgrades to the center’s existing computer lab. The center is the only youth-serving institution in the Buffalo area accessible during weekend evening hours from 8-11 p.m., when crime is the highest. The computer lab focuses on using up-to-date technology to develop academic and employability skills as well as provides a safe alternative to the streets. The grant represents a solid investment in the future of our community and spreads the important message of non-violence. Diggs stated, “The Saint Columba-Brigid Teen Center was near and dear to Sister Karen Klimczak’s heart. It is definitely the best thing going for youth on Friday and Saturday nights between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Sister Karen and Father Roy Herberger cared enough to keep the doors open and that little light shining.”
Sister Karen will always be remembered as an advocate for peace and non-violence. “It is unfortunate that the community lost such a powerful peacemaker and humanitarian, but it is our hope that this center and its upgrades continue her legacy to guide, support and open doors for our youth,” said Assemblymember Peoples.