The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Guest Column

June 15, 2013

A disgrace to New York


To put it in perspective, that amount of money would pay for twenty social services caseworkers for a typical upstate county, like Delaware County, where I was a caseworker in 2011. Or it would pay to give Food Stamps for one year to 500 more destitute upstate kids.

No matter. Lopez’s girlfriend created documents after the fact to make the salary look quasi-legitimate, and Lopez continued on, creating a life of luxury for himself while his constituents and real social services workers braved an anemic economy.

I imagine that every entity that has given him an “achievement” award would like to forget they ever did, such as the National Association of Social Workers of NYC did a few years ago. Given what we now know about Mr. Lopez, some of those awards may have been helped along by his promises of financial or other support.

Meanwhile, real social workers make anywhere from $35,000 to $65,000 a year working with the public. There are many who labor with great dedication trying to get housing, food, income and opportunities for the worst off in this city.

We do it hoping that politicians like Lopez are working to change policies so that we will have a social welfare system that actually makes it possible for social workers to steer people to the things they need. From housing to jobs to food, we can’t lead people to stuff that isn’t there.

But Lopez was too busy building his own easy street to be concerned with changing policy to benefit New Yorkers. And now he is pretty well set, despite his resignation. Unfortunately, “this ugly chapter” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said of Mr. Lopez’s time in the State Assembly, is not going to end unless we do something extraordinary.

He should not be permitted to receive his $64,000 pension. For him to get this generous payment every year defies sound public policy and common decency. When I think of him collecting this money, I think of many families I visited as a CPS worker: in Andes, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, and on an on, jumping through hopes to get public help while the state budget got smaller and smaller.

And with no shame whatsoever, Lopez now plans to continue his “public service” by running for New York City Council as well. Flush with ill gotten cash and with the allegiance of people he did favors for, he may just get in, too. Not bad for social work, Mr. Lopez.

DIANE R. PAGEN, LMSW, is a former Delhi resident.

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