Why Rangel must Go.
Our district needs to regain control over its resources, its culture and its way of doing business. Under Charlie Rangel, the district has seen an increase in unemployment and a decrease in its cultural prestige. From the southern boundaries of Harlem to the new northern boundaries of the Bronx, the needs are the same: 1) stopping displacement of our long standing residents, 2) invigorate small businesses to encourage employment, and 3) stopping mass incarceration.
Times have changed since Charlie Rangel was first elected. In a book published by Dr. Manning Marable, a Columbia University Professor of African-American history , titled “Living Black History,” he writes that the issues of the Civil Rights era are much different than the issues that face many inner city communities today. Today’s issues are mass unemployment, mass incarceration and mass disenfranchisement. Rangel has failed to adjust to the new challenges facing residents in our district and it is the residents who suffer the price.
Challenges are many, but to take the necessary first steps that I believe will help our community, we must focus on creating employment opportunities and protecting housing. At the very time that rents are rising in Harlem and theBronx, sometimes by 300%, unemployment here is the highest in the city. Residents find they can no longer afford to live here, yet they cannot find better employment opportunities to improve their situation.
While we are all grateful for what Rangel has done 40 years ago, it is clear that his old approach is no longer successful in dealing with the new realities.
So, how should we go forward? I have a three step plan that I believe will help the residents of our new district.
- Create Employment Pathways to Success – We have high levels of unemployment, reaching above 50% for black males. Since not everyone chooses or has the opportunity to go to college, we need to strengthen our technical education by training people in the trades. Trades, such as auto mechanics, welders, plumbers and electricians, are a great pathway to success and employers can’t find enough workers to fill these jobs. I am living proof. To earn a decent living and pay for my NYU education, I worked as an electrician. We need to provide a barrier free chance for low skilled workers to earn a livable wage.
- Develop an Environment to Sustain Local businesses – Today I know many former shopkeepers around 125th Street who are now street vendors. Unfortunately the cost of doing business became so onerous that they could no longer hold on to their storefronts. Big banks have taken over these spaces to the detriment of the local community that lost a hair dresser, an ethnic restaurant or a grocer. We must protect and encourage local business, often the biggest job creators, through better zoning ordinances. I have already sued the city on behalf of hundreds of local businesses and impacted legislation. But as long as Rangel accepts over one million dollars from the real estate industry, local businesses will be at a disadvantage.
- Protect Housing for Long-time Residents – In the same lawsuit in which we fought to protect businesses, we fought so that residents would not have to abandon homes and neighborhoods where they grew up. My lawsuit fought to protect housing while at the same time allowing for the necessary improvements that every community deserves. Rangel has allowed HUD funds to help with “gentrification” at the expense of the very residents who live there today. More surprising, Espaillat voted against the continuation of rent control. I will ensure that HUD monies are used for what they should be, so residents can continue to live in their own neighborhoods.
I have a track record for fighting for these issues from outside of the system. Now I ask voters to allow me to apply my experience to fixing the system itself. Until we make the necessary changes, it is the residents of the district who will continue to suffer under the poor choices that our present politicians continue to make. Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s make it a better one too.
Craig Schley is a candidate for Congress in the 13th Congressional District. He served as assistant clerk for a Supreme Court Judge and founded “Voices of the Everyday People” (VOTE People), a human rights advocacy organization. He also worked on Rep. Rangel’s staff.