Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blaber News Person of the Week Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo is this weeks Blaber News person of the week. His commitment to Public service and the people of New York is second to no one. Andrew's work with HUD is consider by both Dems and Reps as a successful turn around of an agency that was close to being shut down prior to his taking over. He was confirmed to his position in HUD twice by a Republican US Senate. President Clinton is quoted as saying that Andrews work at HUD was one of the most dramatic turn around of a federal agency in Modern U.S. history. When Mr.Cuomo worked at HUD he had 300 lawyers working under his direct supervision, which makes him most qualified to be our next Attorney General.

Andrew M. Cuomo was born in Queens, New York on December 6th, 1957, the second child of Mario Cuomo & Matilda Raffa Cuomo. His paternal grandparents, Andrea and Immaculato Cuomo emigrated from Salerno, Italy in the 1920s to New York where Andrea ran a small grocery in South Jamaica, Queens. Andrew and his three sisters and one brother grew up in Hollis, Queens. Andrew received his Bachelors of Arts in 1979 at Fordham University in the Bronx and then went on to receive his law degree from Albany Law School in 1982.
Andrew with sister Margaret

Hard work and family have defined Andrew’s life. Andrew worked during college and law school in an array of positions including security guard, landscaper, and an auto repair mechanic. At the age of 24, while still in law school, Andrew served as campaign manager for his father, Mario Cuomo, in his successful 1982 race for Governor of New York. Andrew then headed the Transition Committee for Governor-Elect Cuomo and worked as a key aide in Albany. Thereafter, Andrew joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and then went to a private law practice and subsequently founded HELP, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless.

Andrew has always been passionate about fighting for the most vulnerable citizens, particularly when it comes to fundamental human rights and social justice: ensuring that each American has a safe, secure place to live. Andrew established Housing Enterprise for Less Privileged (HELP) in 1986, which became the nation’s largest private provider of transitional housing for the homeless. By providing more than just shelter, but also education, job training, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, mental health services, and emergency and transitional housing, HELP challenged the traditional orthodoxy on the issue by advocating the true needs of the population as opposed to the current thinking that the “solution to homelessness was three-fold: housing, housing, housing.” HELP was recognized by Congress as a model of dealing with the many problems facing the homeless. Based on his pioneering work through HELP, Andrew was appointed by New York City Mayor David Dinkins in 1991 to lead the New York City Commission on the Homeless. That Commission issued a report titled “The Way Home” which was widely accepted as effective housing and social policy.

The Cuomo family has a great tradition of fighting for social justice. HELP USA has benefited from the leadership of many members of the family. Andrew’s mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, founded HELP’s Mentoring USA branch in 1987 when she served as New York State’s First Lady. The programs provide structured, one-on-one mentoring for “at risk” kids in New York City. Andrew’s sister, Maria Cuomo Cole, has served as Chairperson of HELP since Andrew went to Washington to serve with President Clinton in 1992. Under Maria’s leadership, the organization has grown as a national provider of homeless services and expanded its programs in job training, domestic violence and affordable housing. In it’s 20th year, the organization founded the HELP USA Justice Center, dedicated to fighting discrimination in New York State. The Justice Center is extending the organization’s mission to address the root causes of the myriad problems that confront underprivileged families across the country. HELP USA's Justice Center will work as a legal advocate to eliminate systemic inequalities and unfair racial and discriminatory practices.

Academics and Awards. Andrew has received numerous awards, among them, the National Association of Homebuilders Appreciation Award; the National Puerto Rican Coalition Appreciation Award; the NAACP Freedom and Justice Award; Alliance for Justice and the Coalition of Italo-American Assoc., Inc. Leadership in Public Service Award. Andrew edited Crossroads: The Future of American Politics, published by Random House in October 2003. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.Andrew has practiced law in both the private and public sectors. His professional legal career after law school began in public service as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan under Robert Morganthau in 1984. He also worked in private law practice and at the real estate investment firm Island Capital.

Taking the Fight for Justice To WashingtonAndrew's work in New York City fighting homelessness attracted national attention. In 1993, Andrew was invited to be on Bill Clinton’s Transition Committee and was then asked to serve as Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Secretary Henry Cisneros. He quickly established a reputation as an innovative reformer. Andrew became a key senior official in the Clinton Administration and was involved in numerous Clinton initiatives, such as the White House Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support and Independence 1993-94 and numerous interdepartmental assignments. Andrew was picked by President Clinton to serve as HUD Secretary at 39 years old in 1996. Under his leadership, HUD was transformed from a bureaucratic backwater to a revitalized engine for economic development, unprecedented housing opportunities, and underwent a dramatic reform, which resulted in millions of dollars of savings for taxpayers. Andrew’s work earned HUD the prestigious “Innovations in American Government Award” from the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, on three separate occasions. Andrew served for all eight years of the Clinton Administration.

Jay Z and Andrew Bringing the Fight for Justice Back to New YorkIn 2003 Andrew launched a public campaign about the damaging impact of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. These laws require mandatory minimum sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug users and have had a disproportionately negative impact on minority families since its inception 30 years ago. These laws also waste millions of taxpayer dollars to lock up people who would be better served by residential drug treatment programs, at about half the cost. Efforts to reform the laws had been stalled for 10 years, so Andrew partnered with hip hop mogul Russell Simmons to form a large coalition to call for changes in Albany. The “Drop the Rock” coalition staged a rally with thousands of young people who gathered to voice their opposition to the unfairness of these laws. This effort helped spur Albany to act – and pass – a reform bill. Although Andrew feels the legislation doesn’t go far enough, he’s proud to have helped initiate the debate on this important topic. [Daily News: Hip Hop's Elite Join Pols' Drug Law Rally] READ MORE>>

Andrew has been instrumental in organizing an advocacy campaign to keep the death penalty out of New York. In 2004, New York’s Court of Appeals struck down New York’s death penalty statute as unconstitutional. Andrew has campaigned vigorously to keep the death penalty statute out of New York State, leading the “Death to the Death Penalty” coalition of anti-death penalty groups to educate and organize support against the archaic law. Harnessing innovative internet technology with his “Network for Justice” initiative, Cuomo partnered with many civic organizations to enable thousands of citizens to tell their elected representatives to keep the flawed death penalty law out of the state. As of today, New York does not have a death penalty law. [Op Ed: Don't Revive the Death Penalty] READ MORE>> And last year, when the Bush Administration proposed drastic and harmful cuts to Andrew’s former department HUD, Andrew immediately went into action to protect New Yorkers. Under the Bush Administration’s proposal, New York would have lost over $100 million annually in critical funding for anti-poverty, community development and Section 8 housing programs. Cuomo organized opposition to the cuts and demonstrated the harm they would do to urban and rural areas. He helped mobilize citizens and community groups to help save funding for housing for seniors, AIDS victims and disabled New Yorkers. He also threatened to sue HUD in order to stop the cuts on Constitutional grounds. While unable to beat back all of the proposed HUD reductions, the group did manage to shame Congress into restoring much of the proposed cuts. [Op Ed: Ending Block Grant Program] READ MORE>>

Andrew is the proud father of three daughters – twins Cara & Mariah, 11, and Michaela, 8.
A Fighter for Social Justice

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