March 29, 2001

Using Poverty For Political Gain


By Jon A. Brake

Poverty is getting a bad name in Manhattan. A local political group has taken on the roll as protector of the poor
but they have political gain as their objective.

The City of Manhattan Social Services Advisory Board and the League of Women Voters are holding a
"Dialogue On Poverty" meeting tonight at the Methodist Church.

It has been billed as being sponsored by the Riley County Commission but the County Clerk and Commission
Chairman said they never discussed sponsorship. It has also been billed as being sponsored by the City of
Manhattan but the City staff said the Social Services Board members were told at the January meeting that they
needed City Commission approval for sponsorship, which they did not get. The Social Services Board wanted to
hold the "Dialogue" at City Hall but were told it was a political meeting and they could not use the Commission
Chambers. They were also denied use of City staff and equipment.

Sponsorship is not the only problem with this meeting. The issues to be discussed will be 1. Safe, Affordable
Housing 2. Child Care 3. Improving Jobs & Increasing Income 4. Transportation.

These issues sound very familiar to the goals of a political group called the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and
Justice (MAPJ).

This is the political group that does not like to be called Communist, they don't like to be call Socialist, they don't
even like to be called Liberal. When MAPJ made a proposal to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development
for a $21,500 grant to start Speak United they gave these four goals: 1. Tenant's Rights and Public Housing. 2. A
Living Wage. 3. Child Care. and 4. Transportation.

Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice has been working hard for the reelection of Commissioners Karen
McCulloh, Carol Peak and Roger Reitz. The June 2000 issue of the MAPJ newsletter had an article by John
Exdell called "Snead, Peak, and McCulloh - Will They Stand By Public Positions On Living Wages? In the article
it states: "Our readers may recall that the living wage issue was a major part of the April 1999 city commission
election campaign. During the campaign Bruce Snead and Carol Peak gave their explicit endorsement for the
idea that a living wage should be a condition for firms receiving economic development assistance."

The article went on to state: "If we add the public declarations of Mayor Karen McCulloh to the campaign
commitments of Peak and Snead, there should be a decisive 3-vote majority for making living wages a condition
for companies receiving economic development funds."

Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice started Speak United and the Flinthills Living Wage Coalition, and are
strong in the membership of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU and an organization called Sustainable
Manhattan. All are active in local politics.

Sustainable Manhattan was organized by City Commissioners Bruce Snead and Carol Peak. Commissioner
Karen McCulloh is listed as an advisor. A $550 grant was given by Sustainable Manhattan to the Flinthills Living
Wage Coalition to hold a workshop on the Living Wage issue and then all three Commissioners attended.

In an undated letter to the Speak United organizer the MAPJ president stated: "As you know, the Manhattan
Alliance for Peace and Justice is legally responsible to Campaign for Human Development to see that the funds
for Speak United are well spent, and are being used effectively to advance the goals of the project."

When Speak United hired a full time organizer, the Job Description read: "Chief responsibility is to develop a
grassroots organization of low and middle income citizens of Manhattan which will work to change the structure of
society to the benefit of its members. The organization will work on issues independent of MAPJ and will work
side by side with MAPJ on other issues. Organization is named Speak United."

Part of the Speak United Mission Statement reads: "Speak United's goal is to make structural changes in area
such as affordable child care for working parents, a reliable transportation system, a living wage to support our
families above the poverty line, more after-school activities and programs for kids during the summer, and fair
housing - no matter where one lives."

People in poverty have enough problems without political groups turning those problems to be used for political
gain. How can the organizers claim the "Dialogue" is sponsored by the County Commission when it is not. How
can the organizers claim the "Dialogue" is sponsored by the City of Manhattan when it is not.