It was billed as a rally to protest Gov. George Pataki’s proposed funding cuts for programs in naturally occurring retirement communities.
But last Thursday’s event felt more like a political rally for Pataki’s Democratic nemesis, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Amid large signs that read "Educational Alliance Supports Speaker Sheldon Silver" and "Thank You Sheldon Silver," elected officials (including presidential contender Joe Lieberman) and seniors’ advocates praised Silver before a mostly elderly audience of several hundred at the Alliance’s auditorium on the Lower East Side. They blasted the Republican Pataki for his plan to cut $1.2 million from a program initiated by Silver that helps keep seniors out of nursing homes.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller said the cut was not only a "dumb idea" but it was "unconscionable" because it could cost lives. "What are we going to do?" he asked the crowd before leading them in a chant of "Fight!"
When Silver took the podium, he said cutting the $1.2 million from a budget of over $91 billion would have little impact on the overall budget. "The governor has to make some tough decisions, but in the end he has to make the right decisions," said Silver.
Lieberman took an opportunity to fire a broadside or two at the GOP. "They say they are the party of values," said the Connecticut senator, whom Silver has endorsed for president. "Is it really values when you cut these funds? I don’t think so."
The governor’s office has said that seniors living in NORC communities can benefit from other state programs if the $1.2 million is cut.