Op-Ed piece in the 9/19/15 D&C
Who speaks for the poor? If not our county executive and the County Legislature, why? If not the faith community, why not? As men and women of faith, it is our responsibility, no, our obligation to cast a light on the moral dimensions of our county budget.
In the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he calls upon the faith community to “face its historical obligation in this crisis. In the final analysis the problem of race is not a political but a moral issue.” Our county budget demonstrates who is important and who is not, what is important and what is not.
Therefore, we call upon the county executive and the Legislature to:
invest in early childhood education (such as universal pre-K).
invest in child care so that low-income parents can continue to seek employment.
increase the minimum wage so that is more nearly a living wage.
According to Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, “government can either hurt or help families.” Knowing this how can we ignore that Rochester has the second highest concentration of poverty and the seventh highest child poverty rate in the country? How can we ignore children being detained in centers seeking safety or their small bodies being washed ashore seeking freedom and living in communities where they are afraid to walk to school. We can do better! We must do better!
In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, the Rev. King addresses this very issue. He states that, “economic insecurity strangles the physical and cultural growth of the victim. Not only are millions deprived of a formal education and proper health facilities but our most fundamental social unit—the family—is tortured, corrupted and weakened by economic insufficiency. The living standards need to be raised to levels consistent with our natural resources.”
As men and women of faith, we must challenge our churches not to sit silent and settle for the status quo. According to the Rev. King’s book Strength to Love, the church must recover “its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men.” Should not our church communities be the conscience for our public welfare?
The children are our investment for the future of this community and our nation and their families deserve equal economic opportunities.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” — the Rev. King It is with this in mind, we challenge our public servants to fulfill their responsibility to assist and aid families in need and do not harm or hurt and damage them any further.
The New York state Constitution states, “The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions… as the legislature may from time to time determine.”
County executive and the Legislature, as stewards of public funds, will you inflict harm or will you build common good for all?
Becky Elwell is president and Gaynelle Wethers is vice president of The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester