(Editor’s note – the following letter was sent to the Observer following the first rally against federal and state budget cuts. The May 9th rally is the second community wide event)

Community Forum Held to “Save New Opportunities, Inc. NOW!”

By Robert H. Wright

   Over 250 religious and political leaders, community members, and recipients of social services of the anti-poverty agency New Opportunities, Inc. attended an emergency meeting, April 20th, to receive information on the state of possible cuts to the budget of the agency. Being debated are federal spending cuts which if implemented could force New Opportunities, Inc. to cut its budget.  This could lead to the elimination of nearly 25% of this important anti-poverty institution’s staff.

   What happens to New Opportunities, Inc. affects the entire city. The agency in its 47 year history has assisted thousands of Waterbury citizens from all sectors of society. This reality was reflected in the diverse range of the over two hundred and fifty people attending the forum hosted by the A.M.E. Zion Church, pastured by the Reverend Leroy Perry.

   The informational forum, chaired by Waterbury Alderwoman Joyce H. Petteway, consisted of Linda Foreman from Congressman Christopher Murphy’s staff, State Representative Larry Butler, School Commissioner Karen Harvey, former State Representative and current OIC Director Reginald Beamon, National Congress of Black Women Attorney Adrienne Parkmond, and Executive Director of New Opportunities, Inc. Dr. James Gatling. Greetings were also sent by former State Representative and Assistant Majority Leader Bill Dyson, who was the longest serving member of the Connecticut General Assembly’s House of Representatives, and State Senator Joan Hartley.

   This distinguished panel presented to the community the possible ramifications of these budget cuts and discussed strategies to prevent them. The assembled body discussed the organization of a state wide campaign, involving all anti-poverty agencies.

   At a previous Waterbury Board of Aldermen meeting a resolution, presented by Alderwoman Petteway, was passed by the Board stating among other things that,

   …WHEREAS, federal Community Services Block Grant funding has been key to fighting inequality and poverty throughout Connecticut, empowering low-income families to work their way out of poverty; and

   WHEREAS, all Connecticut residents desire and will benefit by an inclusive economic recovery in which even our most vulnerable residents are empowered to lead productive lives of dignity and to more fully participate in Connecticut’s economy.

   NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Waterbury Board of Aldermen urges President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to preserve the federal Community Services Block Grant at the current funding level since it is a critical component in the fight to defeat poverty, build a better future for Connecticut’s families, and stimulate an economic recovery in our local communities.

   Among the many participants in the event were representatives of the Concerned Black Clergy organization and Reverend Thomas Mallory, who gave the benediction. Also in attendance were members of the Northend business community and the NAACP. Additional meetings are projected for the immediate future to expand community organization efforts.