Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2268 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:30:26 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Reinserting Morality Into Our Politics http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7365:reinserting-morality-into-our-politics http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7365:reinserting-morality-into-our-politics jfk speech

JFK delivers a speech (via JFK Library)


On June 11,1963, President John F. Kennedy made a televised speech to the nation on civil rights. It moved me -- I was 19 years old at the time -- more than any political event up to that moment.

He said: "It ought to be possible...for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would want his children to be treated. But this is not the case.”

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue,” JFK said. “It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution."

Later in the speech, he made the morality point again. "We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people.”

“It cannot," he added, "be met by repressive police action."

Perhaps because of my religious education -- 12 years of Catholic schooling -- the president stressing the morality of the matter moved me deeply. No stronger case could be made for generally doing the right thing, or for, specifically, passing the legislation that Kennedy presented to address our moral problem.

For Kennedy "moral issue" was not a reference to the "family values" espoused -- up until recently, at least -- mainly by right-wingers upset with the flouting of conservative sexual and marital mores. He referred to fundamental religious and humanistic tenets that we as a society recognize: the common dignity of all people -- as in "all men are created equal" -- and that we have a great responsibility to provide for people’s well-being and to protect them from harm.

Recently, as I do my social and racial justice work -- which included a mayoral run earlier this year aimed to pushing these conversations to the fore -- I think more about Kennedy's remarks and his appeal to the American people, the case he made that we must reject the institutionalized racism in our country because it is immoral, contrary to our nation's founding principles. Not because it is wasteful, expensive, ineffective, but because it is fundamentally wrong either to inflict hardship on our fellow citizens or to ignore their plight caused by society's abuse or neglect.

Starkly racially-biased practices and realities are all too rife and ripe now in our city and country. They are similar to and different from the concerns that JFK and many other Americans in the ‘60s were concerned about and fought against.

For example, today in New York City, people of color are nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, though research shows that white people use and sell the drug in equal or greater proportion to African-Americans or Latinos; black people make up about 25% of the city's population, but over 50% of felony arrests; more than 90% of the people incarcerated on Rikers Island are New Yorkers of color.

Racial discrimination in our city extends beyond our criminal justice system: 98% of homeless families are African-American or Latino; black and Latino children make up about 70% of our public school system's 1.1 million students, and research shows that the system's most dilapidated, poorly-performing schools almost entirely "serve" youth of color; meanwhile the 15% of the system's students who are white mainly attend the best-performing schools.

It came home to me while I ran for mayor and studied possible solutions to the city’s seemingly intractable problems that better remedies are available than are being applied or even discussed, but that out of fear of political risk or the expense involved, no mainstream politician comes forward to propose them. No government policy-maker issues dramatic, pointed challenges to our city's or the nation's citizens that we have a moral obligation, whatever the risks or costs, to rid our society of racist practices and realities.

For example, the city should change its response to mentally ill people in the community: send mental health professionals, rather than cops. Save lives rather than endanger them. The city must end "broken windows" policing tactics and focus policing on what we see cops do on TV shows: apprehending persons who do serious harm to the community. The city should commit to providing the 1.1 million children in our schools with small class sizes, which research and common-sense tell us improve academic outcomes for children across race and class lines. The city must commit to building affordable housing units poor people in the neighborhoods where the housing is provided can afford. Remove profit-making companies from the program and rely on community-based groups with track records in building & managing apartments.

Wrapping up, Kennedy said: "They [African-Americans] are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not freed from social and economic oppression...And this nation, for all its hopes and boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free."

That should still be our goal, our moral imperative. Yet is there any current mainstream leader -- a political heading JFK falls under -- who will lead us there or even utter the words? It is unimaginable, for instance, that our president or New York mayor, despite his progressive claims, would play that role. It is then up to us, the activists and advocates for justice, all people who believe that moral values have a central place in our political life, to organize, to expose the terrible damaging effects that racism has on our fellow citizens and to press the case for the moral reckoning needed to create a fully inclusive society that is fair, safe, and equitable for all of us.

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Bob Gangi is the director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). On Twitter @GangiFromPROP.

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Reinserting Morality Into Our Politics Tue, 12 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Voters Guide for the 2017 City Primary Election http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7157:voters-guide-2017-new-york-city-primary-general-election-mayor-city-council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7157:voters-guide-2017-new-york-city-primary-general-election-mayor-city-council de Blasio voting election

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Voters Guide for the 2017 City Primary Election Tue, 29 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Democratic Mayoral Candidates Talk 'Faith in New York' http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7097:democratic-mayoral-candidates-talk-faith-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7097:democratic-mayoral-candidates-talk-faith-in-new-york bdb faith in new york crop

De Blasio at the Faith in New York interview (photo: @FaithinNewYork)


The four main Democratic mayoral candidates had a chance on Thursday to publicly show how far to the progressive left they are, appearing just over six weeks from primary day at a series of open discussions with Faith Over Fear Coalition, a citywide coalition of more than 90 congregations and more than 25 faith and justice groups, convened by Faith in New York, an advocacy organization that launched in 2013.

Faith in New York (FINY), which describes itself as a “citywide network of congregations and faith-based partners who transform our moral values into public policy,” and its coalition partners conducted separate public interviews at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village with Mayor Bill de Blasio, former City Council Member Sal Albanese, police reform activist Bob Gangi, and entrepreneur Michael Tolkin. Sitting with coalition leaders around four tables arranged in a square, the candidates had a chance to discuss their records and platforms, and were asked a series of questions about their support for key Faith Over Fear policy agenda items.

The coalition has developed a seven-point list of general priorities, each with specific policies underneath. The broader categories are “Defend Our Immigrant Community,” “Uphold Religious Freedom,” “Stand Against Hate Crimes and Protect Civil Rights,” “Ensure All Voices are Heard, Counted & Respected,” “Protect New Yorkers from Abusive Policing,” “Make Housing Accessible to Current Communities First,” and “Protect Our Communities From the Threats of Climate Change.” The candidates were asked both general and specific questions from the full platform (it be found on the group’s website), including multiple policy priorities that de Blasio has not supported.

For the incumbent mayor, the forum was a somewhat rare campaign appearance -- de Blasio has been selective about which candidate forums he attends. He has thus far declined to appear at any that resembles a debate, with multiple candidates appearing at once, instead agreeing to a handful of forums where the candidates appear one at a time, like with Faith Over Fear.

The mayor’s interview was mostly focused on his first-term record. De Blasio, while conceding that there’s more to do, touted his administration’s achievements in, among other things, reducing the use of stop-and-frisk, passing and implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning to produce affordable housing, and, most recently, guaranteeing legal counsel in housing court to low-income New Yorkers who are facing eviction. The mayor also discussed issues at the federal level, excoriating the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and stating that loss of federal funding could tie a second de Blasio administration’s hands on his policy priorities.

Fatoumata Waggeh, Civic Organizer for African Communities Together, a Faith Over Fear member organization, recounted to the mayor the story of a family known by an alias for their protection, the Khazir family. The Khazirs left Pakistan amid political tensions and overstayed their visa to settle in Astoria. The family now has two children, one in a specialized high school and the other in a gifted and talented program. On a family trip to Niagara Falls, the family’s GPS “erroneously” directed them to a Canadian border crossing in Buffalo where they were detained by Customs and Border Patrol agents. However, when the case was transferred back to the city, the family couldn’t benefit from an attorney provided by the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project because they were bonded out of detention.

Upon completing the story, Waggeh asked de Blasio how his administration would ensure all immigrants are provided an attorney upon detention rather than at their first hearing. In response, the mayor stated that, while the Khazirs provide an example of why federal immigration policy is broken, “some of the premises may not be fully accurate on how we approach the situation.” The mayor cited a recent vote to provide a “bigger commitment” to immigrant legal services, while stating that there are some “stipulations,” such as for those who have been convicted of a serious crime. But he stated that the profile of the Khazir patriarch, whose words were recounted by Waggeh, sounded like “exactly someone who could get our support now.”

After the forum, de Blasio met privately with the Khazir family. Stuart Marques, the spokesperson for FINY and the larger coalition, told Gotham Gazette that “the mayor met with the family to speak about legislation to fund legal representation for undocumented immigrants."

De Blasio also faced a round of questioning on the timeline for closing Rikers Island. In March, the mayo announced a 10-year timeline for closing the jail complex, which has been assailed by criminal justice advocates as too long to wait to close an institution they believe violates human rights. De Blasio stated that he is the “first mayor to ever say in 85 years we’re gonna close it,” but feels that he would do a disservice to people by stating that Rikers can be closed faster, citing the difficulties in reducing the inmate population to 5,000 and the time it take to expand and build new jail facilities in the boroughs.

De Blasio also said he believes that police-community relations and racial disparities in policing have improved under his tenure, with a more representative NYPD, implicit bias training for officers, fewer arrests, and a significantly curtailed usage of stop-and-frisk.

Gangi, a longtime police reform advocate, is largely basing his quixotic campaign on de Blasio’s perceived failures in policing and criminal justice reform. Saying he hopefully voted for de Blasio in 2013 but is disappointed with him, Gangi claims that his administration could close Rikers within a year, citing an opinion piece he wrote for the Daily News where he suggested that ending broken windows policing and cash bail, and decriminalizing fare evasion, marijuana possession, sex work, and gravity knife possession, as outlined in a report by the Lippman Commission, which studied the city’s criminal justice system and put forth a plan to close Rikers jails, would significantly reduce the population at Rikers, enough to plausibly close the complex in one year.

Gangi chastised de Blasio’s 10-year Rikers plan as “cockamamie.” “To say you need 10 years to close Rikers is not true, and also, even if he’s reelected, he won’t be mayor for five years before 2027. So whatever he says now has no bearing or hold on whoever’s gonna be in office at that time. It was a political dodge, it was an election year pledge.”

Gangi believes that broken windows policing -- which de Blasio has steadfastly supported and had his police commissioners implement -- impacts other policy areas as well, stating that the practice puts undocumented immigrants in the “crosshairs of ICE.”

In the Faith Over Fear interview, Gangi also discussed open discovery reform, meaning that prosecutors must share their information with defendants and their lawyers at the beginning of a case to expedite and equalize the legal process. Gangi referred to New York as having a “notoriously lazy legal culture.”

Gangi went so far as to suggest that the NYPD’s culture is entrenched to such a degree that the only solution for ending abusive policing could be “significantly dismantling” the department, referring to this idea as “the most radical thing our campaign is promoting.”

Albanese has a different outlook on the police. While he said that the city “shouldn’t need Rikers Island,” he does believe that the city should be enforcing what he calls “quality of life” crimes, which is the basis of broken windows policing -- stringent enforcement of low-level crimes in an effort to keep order and prevent larger crimes. Albanese refers to broken windows as a “marketing term.” However, he doesn’t think that cops should be giving out summonses in a cavalier manner to fulfill a quota. The NYPD has consistently denied over the years that it employs quotas for arrests or summonses.

“What I want to do is work with communities around the city, not from headquarters, but have community policing in place, big league community policing,” he said, in an apparent effort to say that his version would be better than the “neighborhood policing” model de Blasio’s NYPD is in the midst of rolling out across the city. Albanese said people he speaks to in public housing wish for quality of life offenses to be enforced.

On housing, Albanese and Gangi both believe that for-profit developers should be left out of affordable housing production, contrasting themselves with de Blasio, who has weathered criticism for allowing developers to build luxury housing if a certain percentage of units are affordable. Albanese consistently says that this stance of de Blasio’s means that he is in the pocket of big developers, and boasts that he is independent of them as he has not taken money from them for his campaign.

Albanese has recently stated, and in the interview reinforced, his support for a pied-a-tierre tax on properties purchased by foreigners as investments and not lived in. The money from this tax would go into an affordable housing fund.

Gangi emphasized the use of a “community median income” in determining eligibility for affordable housing, decrying the idea of including areas like Westchester in the area median income currently used to determine affordable housing eligibility.

The mayor boasted of the recent legislation passed by the City Council providing a right to counsel in housing court, but stated that it is but “one piece of a much bigger equation,” referring to the city’s efforts to create equity under his leadership. De Blasio did not preview any new policy plans, instead focusing on his record and the key tenets he wants to continue. He mentioned “stopping bad landlords,” a two-year rent freeze in rent stabilized apartments, and a billion dollar investment in NYCHA maintenance.

The candidates also received questions on NYPD surveillance, specifically of Muslim communities and political groups. De Blasio claimed that, having come of age in movement politics, he is “very sensitive” to the question of whether the police are using surveillance to advance political goals, but claimed that the administration is no less transparent than previous administrations, noting that a Muslim surveillance program from the Bloomberg era had been discontinued. De Blasio, who often decried Bloomberg era policies, including what he called a lack of transparency, especially at the NYPD, has recently said multiple times that he is satisfied with following long-held standards.

The police frequently ignore Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, which de Blasio defended by saying that divulging some information could impede investigations, or even threaten individual safety. “Worthy of more conversation,” he said. He further stated that the NYPD “deeply respects” the Handschu agreement, which regulates the department’s enforcement and investigatory powers regarding political activity.

Albanese was more blunt about FOIL: that the department should comply with requests, and quickly.

“Things like FOIL should be turned over expeditiously,” he said. “I’m not particularly sure if it involves sensitive information, the Handschu agreement, as you know, drives all that stuff.” He said that Muslims should not be treated any differently from other New Yorkers, recounting his experience of immigrating from Italy and facing discrimination as an Italian.

As the mayoral primary heads into its final six weeks before the September 12 vote, de Blasio is a heavy favorite. He has many advantages of incumbency, including a significant fundraising advantage, and solid poll numbers. Albanese has raised a decent sum and may qualify to face de Blasio in an official Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned and televised debate. Gangi has struggled to raise funds, while Tolkin has had a limited campaign thus far, though he has appeared at candidate forums and reported giving his campaign a $5 million in-kind contribution, which he says will show itself soon (Gotham Gazette arrived at the Faith Over Fear interviews after Tolkin had spoken).

In a press advisory about the series of interviews, Marques, the spokesperson, noted that presumptive Republican mayoral nominee Nicole Malliotakis had not responded to offers to participate in an interview and that independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl may set up another time to meet with the group -- Dietl was out of town on Thursday, campaigning in the Dominican Republic.

At the end of each interview, the coalition leaders asked the candidates to commit to meeting with them within the first 100 days of the next mayoral term. Albanese, Gangi, and de Blasio all agreed. They attempted to get de Blasio to set a specific date, which de Blasio said would be arrogant to do before even securing reelection.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Democratic Mayoral Candidates Talk 'Faith in New York' Sun, 30 Jul 2017 22:51:22 +0000
The July Mayoral Money Race http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7075:the-july-mayoral-money-race http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7075:the-july-mayoral-money-race 35902558411 134ee26f2b z

Mayor de Blasio (Edwin J. Torres/ Mayoral Photography Office)


Election season is in full swing, with barely two months to go till the September primary election, and mayoral contenders are busy on the campaign trail, reaching out to voters, building name recognition and, perhaps most importantly, raising campaign funds. The latest campaign finance disclosures filed on Monday show Mayor Bill de Blasio is still in the lead in fundraising, but a few of his opponents are beginning to pick up steam and have posted significant fundraising numbers of their own.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, has racked up a massive campaign warchest, far outpacing his rivals on both sides of the aisle. The mayor now has nearly $2.6 million at his disposal after raising about $4.9 million and spending about $2.2 million over the course of the campaign. De blasio, drawing large donations from wealthy donors, unions and the real estate industry, pulled in $414,123 in the latest filing period covering the two-month period from May 12 through July 11, and spent nearly $400,000 in the same time. The haul was lower than the previous filing period in which the mayor raised about $670,000.

The mayor is also a participant in the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which matches small dollar campaign contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio. De Blasio has repeatedly emphasized the number of small donations -- nearly 10,000 totalling about $392,000 -- that his campaign has received as a sign of the groundswell support for his reelection. Prior to the latest filing, De Blasio had already met the threshold for the maximum matching funds that he can spend in the primary election. He indicated earlier this week that he would gladly accept a matching funds payment for his campaign. “I believe in the program,” he said at an event in Queens. “I'm going to follow its rules, and its rules stipulate that we qualify for those resources, so I'm certainly going to pursue that.”

The public funds program is intended to boost participation in city elections and give a fighting chance to first-time candidates and those without access to deep-pocketed donors, rather than incumbents. The program will likely prove to be a key factor for de Blasio’s opponents, chiefly his Republican rival, State Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who became the party’s presumptive nominee for mayor after millionaire real estate executive Paul Massey dropped out of the race.

Malliotakis, who only entered the fray in April, raised nearly $250,000 in her latest filing. With a late start to the race, she has only managed to raise a total of $344,421, with about a quarter of it from outside the city, and has spent about $69,000, leaving her with just over $275,000 in cash on hand. Of her total fundraising, just over $101,000 came from donations of $175 or less, which would qualify for more than $600,000 in matching funds. For Malliotakis to receive those public funds, however, she will first have to raise at least $250,000 from small donors in the city.

Notably, Malliotakis received maxed-out donations of $4950 each from Robert and Rebekah Mercer, billionaire GOP donors that backed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and are investors in right-wing media outlet Breitbart. The de Blasio campaign used the couple’s donations as fodder for a fundraising pitch this week, employing their now-standard tactic of tying Malliotakis to a Republican president that is wildly unpopular in the city. Malliotakis, who voted for Trump last November, has in turn sought to distance herself from the President and is striving to ensure the race is a referendum on de Blasio’s mayoralty.

There are numerous other candidates in the race, some more prominent than others. Although de Blasio is expected to sail comfortably to reelection, he will first have to face challengers in the September primary. Former City Council Member Sal Albanese, who also ran for mayor in 2013, is among those running as a Democrat. Albanese raised just over $45,173 in the last two months, including $2,500 from the Correction Officers Benevolent Association and $3,000 from the FIREPAC, a firefighter union’s political action committee. He has raised about $124,000 and spent about $51,000, leaving $72,515 in his campaign account. Albanese has focused his campaign on criticizing the mayor’s management of the city and highlighting the allegations of pay-to-play that have plagued City Hall. A key issue for him has been the city’s ailing subway system, which he spotlights almost daily on Twitter, and he has promised that he will be the “mass transit mayor” of the city.

Fellow underdog Democrat and long-time police reform activist Bob Gangi brought in just $6,420 in the last two months. He has raised more than $62,000, most of it from personal loans, and has spent just over $56,000. Gangi’s campaign has largely focused on criminal justice issues, on which he believes de Blasio's record has been a less than satisfactory. He has vowed to end broken windows policing and wants to make the NYPD more accountable.

Both Gangi and Albanese are hoping to be included in the CFB’s official Democratic primary debates, which require each candidate to raise and spend at least $174,225 in order to qualify.

Independent candidates have also made a splash in the race. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Bo Dietl, the outspoken, unfiltered private detective and former NYPD officer who was forced to run as an independent after failing to submit the necessary paperwork to run as a Democrat. He also courted a GOP nomination bid only to be thwarted by Republican county leaders who refused to give him a waiver that would have allowed him to run on their party line.

Dietl nearly matched Malliotakis’ fundraising during the last filing period, raking in $244,751. He has raised $809,022 for the entirety of the campaign, lending himself another $100,000, and has spent about $524,000. He has $367,116 in cash on hand.

Also in the race is businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a California native who attempted a run for the presidency last year as a Democrat. De La Fuente moved to the city three months ago to run as a Republican mayoral candidate. He has lent his campaign $600,000 and has only raised $28,329 from donors in total. He has about $213,000 remaining in his campaign account.

Longshot candidate Michael Tolkin, a young tech entrepreneur who is not currently registered with a party but is running as a Democrat, also made news earlier this week when he filed a $5.2 million in-kind contribution to his own campaign. As Gotham Gazette reported on Tuesday, Tolkin intends to roll out “a bunch of content and programming that will be self evident,” which will account for the contribution. He reached that figure through start-up valuation methods, he said.

The primary election for Mayor will take place on September 12 and the general election is on November 7.

Related: Longshot Mayoral Hopeful Outraises & Outspends Opponents, Technically

 

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The July Mayoral Money Race Fri, 21 Jul 2017 04:26:42 +0000