Sonny Southerland: The Sonny Side Up
...Sonny Southerland, producer and host of People's Advocacy Group Presents PAG Magazine on BCAT.
SOMETIMES THE BEST ADVICE IS THE SIMPLEST.For example: don't mess with Sonny Southerland
.The producer of The People's Advocacy Group Presents PAG Magazine
, which has been airing on BCAT/Brooklyn Community Access Television
for six years, is dedicated to helping everyday citizens demand what their tax dollars entitle them to: a local, state, and federal government freed from the shackles of red tape.It's a noble aim inspired by the fact that Southerland
himself has had a more than a few charmed experiences with government bureaucracy.Except that he's
learned how to fight it and learned how to win. "The People's Advocacy Group
was something I started based on my many disappointments with government and services," explains Southerland
, as if it were a stump speech-abetted by a resonant and expressive voice that could only belong to someone who used to work in radio."I live in a housing complex and I've had to constantly be in court to demand repairs, so I know how that system works-or doesn't.Once I had an incident where the roof leaked into my linen closet, so I had to learn how to get a judge to order the complex to fix it.This show is about what mishaps happen when government works for government, not the people." As Southerland
sees it, the worst crime government commits- and by that he
means both the institutions as well as the employees-is its laissez-faire attitude toward ordinary citizens, not the sexier law-breaking subjects that usually make the news, like graft or political patronage.He
best shot at addressing the problem is to focus each episode of his
show on a specific concern, such as Social Security, New York State's harsh, Rockefeller-era drug laws, and what he
cheekily terms "the miseducation" of New York City schoolchildren. "Like my mother," Southerland
explains."One time she
had an issue with Social Security-they were trying to deduct or even stop her
checks, and we had to stop them."Was there a reason the government was trying to do this?No, he
says, it's simply how the system works-there is a cynical attitude by government toward its citizens, and consequently citizens must take an equally cynical attitude toward its government. And while he
is not a lawyer and cannot take on specific cases, Southerland
says, "We can educate people to take their own cases on.
..."Once," Southerland goes on, "I met with an assistant to [New York State Senate Majority Leader] Sheldon Silver and I was told to pay a lobbyist if I wanted to reach him.