WCC Announces 2012 Public Policy Priorities February 14th, 2012

By Pam Elam, Public Policy Committee Chair

While the Women’s City Club of New York takes positions on many issues throughout the year, our Committees often select specific items upon which they wish to focus. Over the last two months, the Public Policy Committee has worked with the civic committee chairs and members to develop the following list of Public Policy Priorities for 2012. But as we all know, it is not enough to highlight issues. Working to implement the initiatives we highlight is always the major challenge. We may choose to support or oppose a piece of legislation, seek a new regulation or remove an old one, schedule meetings with our elected officials, join in coalitions with other good government groups, testify at hearings, organize programs or conferences on our issues, sign petitions or conduct letter/email/phone campaigns, send op-ed articles to the press, have our members interviewed by the media, as well as other avenues of activism.

Those avenues of activism must extend within the WCC as well. We need more WCC members to take part in the civic committees, form new committees, or jump-start old ones. The Public Policy Committee is always available as a resource and is willing to assist the committees in any way. The Public Policy Committee has also launched a Seminar Series to give WCC members the opportunity to participate in a “master class” on the key components of government led by the leading experts in the field. In the first seminar last November, Ronnie Lowenstein, Director of the NYC Independent Budget Office, explained how the NYC budget process really works. On March 29th, former Comptroller Liz Holtzman will join us to discuss the role of the comptroller in NYC.

In addition, the Women’s City Club has a number of signature issues that will be part of any year’s list of Public Policy Priorities. Those issues include, among others: fighting for equal rights and opportunities for all; achieving ethics, election, and campaign finance reforms; protecting reproductive freedom; improving public education through smaller class sizes, fair funding, and adherence to State mandates; and preserving and creating affordable housing. But for 2012 we add the following WCC Public Policy Priorities and seek your help in implementing them:

* Poverty Issues Committee Priorities: (1) Develop and Distribute 2012 Resource Guide to Services & Programs in Manhattan; (2) Examine effects of City, State and Federal budget cuts on those below or at poverty level — ask for a Congressional hearing in NYC; (3) Support access to education for those on public assistance — win passage of NYS bills S2323 and A2471 to allow specific educational programs and related homework to be counted towards satisfying work requirements for public assistance recipients; and (4) Monitor federal welfare legislation regarding continued TANF funding for those in need of temporary assistance.

* Women’s Issues Committee Priorities: (1) Sex Trafficking: Work with NYS Legislators to assure enactment of needed changes to the 2007 Anti-Trafficking Law and the Safe Harbor Act; (2) Reproductive Rights: win passage of the NYS Reproductive Health Act and work to have contraception included in the new Affordable Care Act; (3) Sex Education: monitor curriculum of the new sex education mandate in NYC public schools; (4) Pay Equity: continue working with the Equal Pay Coalition to enact the NYS Equal Pay Law; and (5) Creation of a Young Women’s Initiative.

* Health Committee Priorities: (1) Work in coalitions with other groups to promote policies to achieve universal health care coverage; (2) Promote policies to eliminate financial barriers to access quality health care; (3) Develop information materials and programs about health care reform under the Affordable Care Act for WCC members and the community; and (4) Advocate for policies to improve the quality of and access to health care for target populations including: (a) Adolescents, through such services as school-based Health Centers and physical education in the schools; and (b) The Aging Population, through such services as Long Term Care.

* Environment and Infrastructure Committee Priorities: (1) Fracking: call for strong regulations and greater accountability to protect the integrity of NYC’s water supply. Consider broadening WCC’s approach to include other aspects of the environment, and possibly agriculture insofar as it relates to increasing the food supply brought into the City from upstate New York; (2) Styrofoam: develop ways to press for its elimination or limited use; (3) Evaluate Urban Food production as a possible priority; and (4) Transportation and Infrastructure: co-host public programs and develop a follow-up agenda related to the MTA capital program (securing a lock box for MTA funds from State invasion, opposing service cuts, and advocating for well-maintained, clean, rat-free, safe subway stations).