NY State Found Guilty of Segregation
In the 1960s and 1970s, New York State education officials and the State Legislature actively encouraged the perpetuation of segregation in Yonkers, a Federal appeals court ruled in September. In ruling on this 16-year-old case, the three-judge court found that legislative leaders engineered appointments to the Board of Regents, which makes the state’s education policy, of officials opposed to busing to integrate the schools, The New York Times reported. The court also found that the Board of Regents dismissed Ewald Nyquist, former State Education Commissioner, largely for pursuing desegregation plans, and the Legislature sharply cut a state Racial Balance Fund that helped municipalities desegregate.
The decision reverses a previous ruling by Federal District Court Judge Leonard B. Sand, who has been presiding over the case. In contrast to Judge Sand, the appeals court has labeled state officials’ actions as active rather than passive promotion of segregation.
The ruling means a state government can be held responsible for the acts of cities that have historically maintained segregation. It also means Yonkers may receive the money it needs to help black and Hispanic children close the educational achievement gap with white children, the Times reported.
This case began when the Justice Department (and later the NAACP) accused Yonkers city officials and the Board of Education of intentionally maintaining segregated schools. In 1986, Judge Sand ordered Yonkers to create magnet schools and a busing program, and to build public housing for minorities in predominantly white areas.
Despite this most recent ruling, many believe it is too late to achieve genuine integration of Yonker’s 21,000-student education system. Black residents have also increasingly questioned the usefulness of spending millions to bus black students from minority neighborhoods to predominantly minority schools in white neighborhoods.
(See review of Show Me a Hero, about the Yonkers desegregation efforts.)
New Housing PAC Forms in California
In Southern California, housing advocates have formed a new political action committee, Voters for Affordable Housing. Supporters of the group include developers, tenants, fair housing activists and others concerned with housing issues. It is the first time in Southern California that a housing-oriented group has made this effort.
The PAC has formed for two purposes: to take back Congress from the far right and to put affordable housing on the broader political agenda. The group has organized almost 100 volunteers to walk precincts and work phone banks in specific congressional campaigns. The campaigns were chosen based on whether or not they were targeted races, on the demographics of the district, and on whether or not the group’s participation would make a difference.
From the 1996 Republican Platform:
Homeownership….is not something government gives to the people, but rather something they can attain for themselves in a non-inflationary, growing economy. …For most Americans, our home is our primary asset. Mortgage interest should remain deductible from the income tax.
We affirm our commitment to open housing, without quotas or controls, and we condemn the Clinton Administration’s abuse of fair housing laws to harass citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.
In addition, we support transforming public housing into private housing, converting low-income families into proud homeowners. Resident management of public housing is a first step toward that goal, which includes eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s core functions will be turned over to the States. Its civil rights component will be administered by the appropriate federal agency while enforcement will remain with the Department of Justice.
….Republicans believe that states and localities should have maximum flexibility to design programs which meet the individual needs of their communities. ….Republicans believe we can and will accomplish this without disrupting services to the elderly, disabled and families with children.
From the 1996 Democratic Platform:
…after four years of a Democrat in the White House, the percentage of people who own their own house climbed faster than it has in 30 years. ….We pledge to stand against Republican efforts to repeal the deductibility of home mortgage interest payments. Fulfilling his 1992 pledge, President Clinton made the low-income housing tax credit permanent, encouraging private developers to build more affordable housing.
….In the last four years, Democrats demolished more units of unlivable public housing than Republicans did in the previous 12 years, replacing them with lower-density developments that can serve as anchors for neighborhood renewal. In the next four years, we want to transform the worst public housing from a system that traps people in rundown, crime-ridden projects into one which gives families the freedom to choose where they live by providing vouchers to help them with housing costs. We have dramatically increased help for the homeless, and shifted focus from temporary shelters toward permanent solutions designed to move people back into the mainstream, into jobs and a home of their own.