Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes Reports to the People - Summer 2010

Dear Neighbor,

The summer season is right around the corner and school is almost out. In this newsletter you will find information on new legislation affecting young drivers, MWBEs, soup kitchens, college students and many of you, so please read and share with others.

In the final days of school, students it is imperative that you dedicate time to your studies and final exams to ensure that being left behind or repeating a class will not be necessary. Parents encourage not only a half hour but maybe two hours of extra studying for your children. Every year Mayor Brown and the NYS Assembly have Summer Reading Challenges, so keep your mind sharp by participating in either or both from June through August to improve your reading skills.

I want to remind the community about the importance of beautifying your own properties and neighborhoods. With all the revitalization projects going on around the city and especially improvements to MLK Park with the festivals coming up, our streets should reflect that we care about our neighborhoods, homes and landscapes. Additionally, organizations such as Grassroots Gardens, Buffalo Re-use and some of your own block clubs have collaborative workshops on garden improvements and maintaining your landscapes, so check the local papers and community centers for information.

Amidst these difficult economic times, there is hope. Job seekers there is a job book with several job postings available in my office that is a resource for those who are looking for work or interested in changing careers. Organizations such as the Buffalo Employment and Training Center (BETC), the Outsource Center, the Buffalo Urban League, Urban Community Corporation, Everywoman Opportunity Center, and local staffing agencies are available for your job training and placement needs.

Finally, let’s work towards having a safe and responsible summer. Let’s enjoy the festivals, including these just to name a few, Juneteenth (June 18th -20th), Masten District Jazz Festival (July 18th & 25th), Pine Grill Jazz Reunion (August 1st & 8th), Taking it to the Streets (August 14th & 15th), Buffalo Caribbean Islands Festival (August 20-22, 2010). I hope to see you out at the festivals this summer.

All the best,
Honorable Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes
Member of NYS Assembly
141st District

M/WBE Emerging Manager Legislation
“Expand Economic Opportunities for M/WBE Firms”

In pursuit of the goal of expanding the inclusion and utilization of M/WBE firms by the State of New York at all levels of government, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has introduced landmark legislation to expand the participation of M/WBE firms in the asset management and financial services sectors. These are areas where M/WBE firms have been excluded and grossly underrepresented in their participation and ability to obtain contracts with the state.

The legislation A9976a/S6888, co-sponsored by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson in the Senate would create the NYS Emerging Manager and M/WBE financial services strategy in order to allow for the diversification and expansion of M/WBE contracting goals across the state. This legislation will allow emerging investment managers under the oversight of the NYS Comptroller the ability to invest with M/WBE financial institutions and to adopt a strategy that motivates investments in underserved regions of the state.

Now is the time to turn around the shockingly low M/WBE award rates here in New York. As recent as the 2005-2006 fiscal years, only 3% of the state’s contracts were awarded to M/WBE firms. This was despite the fact that minorities owned 23% of small businesses in the state, while 26% were owned by women. Compared to Florida and Illinois, New York has not worked hard enough in expanding these opportunities. In Florida, they have expanded M/WBE contracting business expenditures to 25% with a 38% minority population and in Illinois with a minority population of 34% they have M/WBE contracting expenditures totaling 22%. So surely New York can and should do more to facilitate these opportunities.

To his credit Governor David Paterson has been remarkable in his support of this issue. His Executive Order #10 which created a Task Force with the specific mission of increasing the utilization of M/WBE firms with the state has been instrumental in pushing opportunities for M/WBE firms forward. These recommendations have developed a uniform procurement process, removed barriers to entry and improved the diversity of debt underwriters and other professional service firms working with New York State.

This legislation is but one of the many developed recommendations to increase the State’s use of M/WBE legal, financial and other professional service providers. It is my expectation that as more M/WBE financial and professional service firms earn senior roles as underwriters, attorneys, bankers, brokers, agents and advisors, these firms will be able to expand their capital and customer base. That will create new jobs here in New York and help develop the next generation of minorities and women in the financial services profession. It is hoped that with the implementation of A9976a, and other initiatives that a vibrant M/WBE financial services sector will grow and thrive here in New York.

Food Donation Liability Legislation
To Decrease Food Waste

In hopes of providing assistance to restaurants who wish to donate food but do not because of civil liability concerns Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, has introduced legislation to provide protection to assist restaurants in the donation of food. Specifically, the bill A9252/S6303 would amend the Agriculture and Markets law to indemnify a donor of any canned or perishable food, farm product, game or wild game that seems fit for human consumption that is donated to charity. The bill is being carried by Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, in the Senate.

The new law would protect donors who reasonably inspect food donations and who don’t have knowledge of the food being adulterated, tainted or harmful to humans. The hope is to make it clearer for restaurants that, “yes” you can donate and it would be great that with less liability concerns they will be better able to work out the transportation issues with pantries in getting the food to their kitchens.

The bill is based on the Jack Davis Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand Act, which Florida implemented in a bi-partisan fashion to ease liability concerns of restaurants that wanted to donate salvageable food to charities in the state. Davis was an 11 year old boy who inquired what a restaurant did with its leftover food. The answer, “to throw it out”, prompted Davis to contact his representative and push for a bill that would make it easier for restaurants to donate food to charities by removing the threat of legal consequences.

Many New Yorkers are feeling the squeeze from the rising cost of food. Staples such as rice, wheat, corn and milk cost more than ever. Middle class pantries are feeling the pressure and families are being hit hard, some even having to use food pantries themselves. Its almost a “perfect storm”, where decreasing donations are being met with an increase in demand for services, and that makes it even more important to provide ways to make more food available.

The USDA reports that the economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track. 50 million people, roughly one out of every four children struggled last year to get enough to eat. Nearly 17 million children lived in households in which food at times was scarce, 4 million more than the year before. It is imperative that we do more to facilitate the giving and not wasting of the 20-27% of all food that is wasted daily and this bill is a step in that direction.

Textbook Transparency Legislation
to Lower College Students Expenses

In light of the economy and the incredible fiscal burdens that many college students and their families are toiling under, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has introduced the “Textbook Transparency Act”, A10386, in order to provide more disclosure to the process of purchasing textbooks. In doing so the transparency will help professors and institutions make more informed decisions regarding the purchasing and acquisition of textbooks.

The wholesale price of textbooks has gone up at least 40% over the last five years according to the US Government Accountability Office, and since 2004 students have purchased approximately $6 billion of new and used textbooks nationally. Combined with rising costs of tuition and housing, textbook expenses have become a big drain on students with various surveys showing that the average student pays $900 or more a year on books.

This legislation, A10386/S6721, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker in the Senate would give professors information they can use to potentially lower the price their students pay for textbooks and other study manuals. Specifically the bill would require college textbook publishers to provide educational institutions and their faculty upon request:

New York is not the first state to put forward legislation of this type. In 2007 the State of Washington enacted the “College Transparency Act”, as did California. It is hoped that with increased transparency and accountability we can empower students to buy their textbooks in a far more cost-effective manner by providing them with accurate information on pricing and change of edition information in an effort to lower the bottom line on student’s budgets during these fiscally trying times.

Disparity study highlights discrimination
against M/WBE’s in New York State

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, announced her support for the release of the required NYS disparity study. Commissioned by the Governor and the Task Force on Minority and Women-Owned Businesses in 2006, this detailed study has found both statistical and anecdotal evidence of business discrimination against M/WBEs in the private sector of the New York State market area. This information will assist the state in assessing its current M/WBE initiatives and to closely tailor existing programs to be more effective in their implementation.

The State commissioned NERA (National Economic Research Associates, Inc.) to examine the past and current status of M/WBEs in New York’s geographic and product markets for contracting and procurement. The results of NERA’s Study provide the evidentiary record needed to further pursue and effectively manage M/WBE programs here in New York.

The study shows that the shortage of M/WBE hiring and the relative lack of solicitation of M/WBEs in the New York market area illustrate how business discrimination continues to hinder M/WBE business opportunities in the State’s relevant markets. M/WBEs report business-related discrimination in large numbers and with statistically significant greater frequency than non-M/WBEs. These differences remain statistically significant even when firm size and other variables remain constant.

The data revealed shows the need for affirmative efforts by New York State and other public entities to facilitate race and gender neutral initiatives to support M/WBE opportunity in New York. In the area of state contracting in construction the disparity ratio was well over 50% for M/WBE construction firms. Of the $33 billion in available contracting opportunities from 2004-08 across all sectors the minority-owned M/WBE’s utilization was 8.6% in construction, 15.4% in CRS, 0.65%, in Services and 0.12% in commodities and 2.9% overall. Combined, M/WBEs earned a mere 5% of all State contract and subcontract dollars during the 5-year study period.

“After many years of concerted effort we now have the data to substantiate what many task force members suspected, that MWBEs have been hurt through a clear history of discrimination by systemic barriers and have been denied contracting and purchasing opportunities. It is my hope that as a result of these findings MWBEs will have the same opportunity to grow, maintain and stabilize their businesses just as majority companies have,” stated Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes.

We are the Champions!!!
The State Assembly honors State Champs basketball team from Buffalo

On April 19, 2010, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes hosted a bus trip to Albany with the ECC Early Middle College High School basketball team from Buffalo, New York who won the State Championships this year.

Accompanied by Principal Susan Doyle, Head Coach Randy Rich and Assistant Coach Dennis Wilson, the team including Patrick Johnson, Justin Stokes, Darale Young, Reggie Wilson, Devonte Harper, Curtis Harper, Khalid Brown, Emmett Middlebrooks, Davon Alexander and Cordell Torres participated in the trip.

During the day-long trip they took a tour of the Legislative Office Building, the Capitol, Senate Chambers, had lunch in the Concourse and visited the Assemblywoman’s office. While in Assembly Chambers, they were recognized by the Speaker and members of the Assembly and presented with a New York State Proclamation that will be written in NYS history. Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, Senator Antoine Thompson and several other members took pictures with the team, administrators and the Assemblywoman as seen in the pictures.

Upstate Recognizes Its Gems

Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes and NYS Senator Antoine Thompson presented an awards reception during the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc. Annual “Black and Puerto Rican Caucus” weekend on Saturday, February 13, 2010 in Albany, NY. The reception recognized leaders on the move in both the private and public sectors that represent various counties across Upstate New York.


One of the most attended receptions during the Caucus Weekend featured the Pappy Martin Band, a host of dignitaries, conference attendees and Governor Paterson and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) showed support for the Upstate award recipients.

The award recipients were as follows:
Honorable Van Robinson, Syracuse City Council
Honorable Lovely Warren, Rochester City Council President
Honorable Willie Lightfoot, Monroe County Legislator
Honorable Robert Anderson, Niagara Falls City Council
Honorable Flora McKenzie, Lockport Alderwoman
Honorable Barbara Miller-Williams, Chair of the Erie County Legislature
Honorable Betty Calvo-Torres, Buffalo City Court Judge
Honorable Carolyn McLaughlin, Albany City Council President
Honorable Lester Freeman, Jr., Albany City Council Member
Honorable Bill Phillips, Utica City Common Council Member
Honorable Pamela Cahill, Buffalo School Board Member
Dr. Charles Anderson, family General Pratice Physician and community activist
Dr. Kenneth Gayles, First Cardiovascular Physician in WNY
Mr. Richard Blanc, owner of Renovatio Physical Therapy
Mr. Harry Corbitt, New York State Police Superintendent
Mr. Paul Williams, Executive Director of DASNY (Dormitory Authority)
Mrs. Tracy Jordan Cardwell, Community Relations/Event Coordinator for LPCiminelli
Dr. Hormoz Mansouri, owner of EI Team, an architectural and engineering firm
Ms. Rhonda Ricks, author for local MWBE law and co-owner of Inclusion Development Associates
Mr. Walt Dixie, President of the Syracuse-based Alliance Network; Executive Director of Jubilee Homes, Inc.
Mr. Sam Roberts, former Onondaga County Legislator, Building Superintendent of NYS Office of General Services
Ms. Beverly Jackson, the Human Resources Executive for Nationwide Precision Products.

New Driving Laws:
Texting and Young Drivers Regulations now implemented to decrease distractions on the road

Whether you keep in touch by using your mobile phone, PDA, laptop, pager, or two-way messenger, New Yorkers are constantly “plugged-in.” While these devices have numerous benefits, their increased usage has proven to be a significant distraction and danger on the road. That’s why I helped implement a statewide ban on driving while using portable electronic devices (PEDs).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 25 percent of all police-reported crashes involved some form of driver inattention. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll, 91 percent of Americans think that driving while texting is as dangerous as drunk driving, and 89 percent of those polled were in favor of a ban.

Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from composing, sending, receiving, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages or other electronic data while driving. The measure also bans viewing, taking or transmitting images and playing games. Motorists found in violation of the ban could face a maximum fine of $150. Fines are allowed to be imposed only as a secondary offense, when the driver is pulled over for a violation of another law.

In addition, the law requires the Commissioner of motor vehicles to work with the Superintendent of the state police to study the effects of the use of PEDs while driving. Previous studies have shown that drivers who use PEDs behind the wheel dramatically increase their chances of being in or causing a traffic accident. According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, speaking on a cell phone while driving or texting impairs several aspects of driving performance, especially reaction time.

In the past few years, counties throughout the state have passed similar local bans. As of Nov. 1, 2009, these local laws were preempted and all New Yorkers are now subjected to the statewide stipulations.

Young Driver Laws

Driving distraction hopefully will be decreased, but also the new law also better protects young, inexperienced drivers by strengthening New York’s graduated licensing (GDL) laws. The limited junior operator (DJ) and junior motorcylce (MJ) driver license are eliminated so that young inexperienced drivers will be supervised for the full six-month permit period and maintains junior driver licenses (Class DJ and MJ) which normally allow limited driving privileges for young people learning to drive.

According to a 2008 NHTSA publication, junior drivers are involved in a significant amount of traffic crashes and are twice as likely as adult drivers to be in a fatal crash. It’s been proven that certain factors, including lack of driving experience, inadequate driving skills, risk-taking behavior and distrations have contributed to higher crash rates among teenagers. The law also increases the number of practice driving hours that must be certified by a parent or guardian from 20 hours to 50 hours before a permit-holding junior driver can obtain a license and limits the number of non-family passengers under the age of 21 allowed to ride.

“Hopefully, the amount of lives that are put at risk due to driving inexperience and an abundance of distractions will be curbed as a result of these new laws,” stated Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes.

Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes Summer Reading Challenge

“Reading a book is a great hobby that can be educational as well as entertaining by exploring the mind and taking imaginative trips of adventure and even suspense–through history, music and the future,” Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes said. “Video games, television and computer programs dominate our children’s lives making it easier to forget the power of imagination. However, you would be surprised at the discoveries, voyages and interesting stories held in the pages of a book.”

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes wants children to have fun reading and expanding their imagination by visiting their public libraries. The Assembly’s 2009 Summer Reading Challenge entitled “Be Creative@ Your Library” recognizes the following participants from last year:

Ja-Quane Young; Cynthia Hawkesworth, Albert Hawkesworth, William Hawkesworth, Javonna Young, Kio McDonald, Ushara Shelton, and Shaair McDuffie.

Peoples-Stokes stated, “The most economical way to keep your children entertained and their imaginations active is by reading.” The Frank E. Merriweather Library (1324 Jefferson Avenue near Utica) and the East Delavan Library (1187 East Delavan Avenue near Bailey) Branches located in my district, are perfect ways to encourage your children to read and utilize their neighborhood resources.”


Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, announced her support of landmark legislation establishing state regulatory authority over a segment of the financial system cited by many experts as a significant contributing factor to the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and the ongoing economic crisis.

The bill, co-sponsored by 35 members of the NYS Assembly, addresses the lack of public oversight that exists with respect to the $26 Trillion credit default swaps market. Credit Default Swaps (CDS) are contracts in which a seller of protection promises to cover the buyer against losses incurred through bond failures or other negative credit events. Under the proposed legislation these transactions are defined and regulated as a form of insurance.

Derivatives, which include credit default swaps, have been described as “financial weapons of mass destruction” by billionaire investor Warren Buffet and the “newest, riskiest, and most complex parts of the financial system” by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The use and abuse of CDS as in the case of AIG and other participants in the marketplace must be addressed. With this legislation by placing CDS within the scope of state insurance regulation the public can demand and get more accountability.

The sellers of protection will now be required to verify they have the capital necessary to cover the policies they sell. We cannot allow the unfettered and unregulated speculation that puts the entire financial structure at risk, as we witnessed in 2008 when Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns vanished and years of gains in the stock market were lost in days. As recent as last week we have seen similar problems as manifest in the federal civil suit brought by the SEC against Goldman Sachs for alleged fraudulent CDS uses.

Here in Buffalo and other cities we have seen the direct impact of the failure to have adequate oversight on Wall Street’s excesses. Our communities have seen massive foreclosures and tight credit compounding many citizens ability to make ends meet during this difficult recession. New York must remain the financial capital of the world and this legislation is a good step in restoring the confidence of working Americans in the financial institutions that have shaken their trust.

ALBANY OFFICE: Room 619 LOB • Albany, New York 12248 • 518-455-5005
DISTRICT OFFICE: 792 East Delavan Avenue • Buffalo, New York 14215 • 716-897-9714