Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/robert-carroll 2017-12-16T13:19:25+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com As New York Votes, a Push to Allow 17-Year-Olds the Ballot Next 2017-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7303:as-new-york-votes-a-push-to-allow-17-year-olds-the-ballot-next Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bobbt-carroll-presser.jpg" alt="bobbt carroll presser" width="600" height="484" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll at <span tabindex="0" data-term="goog_1899207167">Monday's</span> rally</p> <hr /> <p>On the eve of Election Day 2017, a state Assembly member from Brooklyn held a press conference focused on voter engagement and turnout, but it wasn’t in support of his own candidacy -- he’s not up for reelection until next year -- or anyone else’s. Instead, Assemblymember Robert Carroll was talking about his push to allow 17-year-olds to vote.</p> <p>In the state capital of Albany, Carroll recently introduced a bill, the Young Voter Act, that would allow 17-year-olds to cast ballots in state and local elections. The voting age is currently 18 for national elections and within New York. The legislation would also require that all students in public high schools receive at least eight hours of formal civics education, and that schools provide voter registration forms to students when they turn 17.</p> <p>The proposal, which Caroll will attempt to see moved when the Legislature returns to session in January, is aimed at improving New York’s dismal record of voter turnout (among the worst states in the country). On Monday, Carroll rallied in support of the bill outside the city’s Board of Elections with fellow Brooklyn Democratic Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, as well as several politically engaged high school students and advocates.</p> <p>This included the leadership of the <a href="https://yppg-ny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Youth Progressive Policy Group</a> (YPPG), a group of students whose stated mission is to “give the youth of New York a voice in our state’s political process.” The group claims that engaging people in the electoral process early will lead to a more civically active life later on, and it is thus important to not only educate students in civics at an early age, but also to empower them to be a part of it.</p> <p>YPPG’s President, Eli Frankel, a senior at Manhattan’s Bard High School, was quick to note that 17-year-olds are productive members of civic society in other ways, and that this should be extended to voting.</p> <p>“We are organizing rallies like this, we’re going out and we’re talking to people, and a lot of 17-year-olds are contributing to their communities and have responsibilities of adulthood already,” Frankel told Gotham Gazette. “They’re paying taxes, they’re driving, some can enlist in the military. So, it’s time that voting is incorporated into those responsibilities that 17-year-olds already have so they can begin participating in government in a really substantive way so their voice is heard.”</p> <p>Chris Stauffer, YPPG’s vice chair and a senior at Bard, noted that in places where voting rights were extended to high school students, the turnout results have been very promising.</p> <p>“Sixteen- to 18-year-olds in Takoma Park, Maryland actually have double the turnout than 18- to 25-year-olds,” Stauffer told Gotham Gazette of the locality that has lowered its voting age to 16. “This is without any reform to civics education.” People who are still in high school may have fewer extraneous obligations than someone in the age bracket immediately following, where many are away from home at college, allowing them to vote with regularity and consistency and setting them up for a lifetime of civic engagement.</p> <p>Lowering the voting age alone might not be enough to spur extensive turnout among high school students and young people in general, which is why the bill includes more robust, comprehensive civics education in New York schools.</p> <p>The non-profit group Generation Citizen partners with schools in cities around the country, including New York City, to provide students with an “action civics” curriculum centered around local issues, wherein students seek to enact change in specific issue areas. Generation Citizen helps fill a gap in civics education found in many schools and school systems, but it currently operates in a relatively small percentage of classrooms.</p> <p>Civics education is often lacking in schools, especially as it relates to close-to-home politics and government.</p> <p>“A lot of civics courses focus on larger, more grand themes in American history,” Frankel said. “And the civics seminars that this bill mandates all students get really directs students on the nuts and bolts of how they can go out and vote, how they can fill out a ballot correctly, how to register to vote, how to make sure their voice is heard outside of voting, how elections work, and where they can find the information about candidates and about elections that they need to go out and turn out.”</p> <p>The bill also would provide for instant registration within schools. Schools currently have most relevant information for voter registration anyway, aside from an individual’s signature and party registration, according to YPPG Policy Director Max Shatan, a senior at Bard. This allows the process to involve minimal effort on the part of students.</p> <p>According to YPPG PR Director Ilana Cohen, a senior at the Beacon School in Manhattan, these foundational steps in schools would engage people in the process even more than simply allowing them to vote at 17.</p> <p>“Establishing the importance of voting in the classroom has a much greater effect than simply allowing teenagers to go out after high school and let them independently register to vote,” Cohen said.</p> <p>Prior to the bill’s introduction, Assemblymember Carroll sat down with some of the students at YPPG to gather input on a pre-registration bill already in the Assembly. According to Carroll’s chief of staff, Dan Campanelli, during this conversation Carroll suggested crafting a bill to lower the voting age to 17, which was ecstatically received by the students. Carroll subsequently worked on the bill with the students.</p> <p>“In this age of civic participation and interest, we need to make sure, in New York State, that we are teaching our young people what it means to be an active participant in their democracy,” Carroll said at Monday’s rally. “We teach young people all sorts of things. We teach them how to drive cars, we teach them how to take the SAT. We should teach them how to be active citizens and how to vote.”</p> <p>Although the bill has 23 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly including Carroll, it would have to overcome the significant hurdle of passing the Republican-controlled state Senate, as well as to bypass a culture in Albany that is notoriously resistant to voting reform. Senate Republicans have been resistant to election reform measures that have passed the Assembly, like early voting and same-day registration. Younger voters typically skew Democratic, giving another reason for the GOP to oppose Carroll’s bill, especially as Republicans cling to the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, only due to several rogue Democrats who either caucus or form a coalition with the GOP. Though Carroll largely did not speak to its chances in the Senate, he is confident in its ability to pass the Assembly if it gets out of committee there.</p> <p>“If you are against more people accessing the ballot box, then guess what? You’re against democracy,” Carroll said Monday. “And maybe you should get out of the business of holding elected office, because that’s the point of it.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that YPPG's members are seniors at Bard High School, not juniors.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bobbt-carroll-presser.jpg" alt="bobbt carroll presser" width="600" height="484" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll at <span tabindex="0" data-term="goog_1899207167">Monday's</span> rally</p> <hr /> <p>On the eve of Election Day 2017, a state Assembly member from Brooklyn held a press conference focused on voter engagement and turnout, but it wasn’t in support of his own candidacy -- he’s not up for reelection until next year -- or anyone else’s. Instead, Assemblymember Robert Carroll was talking about his push to allow 17-year-olds to vote.</p> <p>In the state capital of Albany, Carroll recently introduced a bill, the Young Voter Act, that would allow 17-year-olds to cast ballots in state and local elections. The voting age is currently 18 for national elections and within New York. The legislation would also require that all students in public high schools receive at least eight hours of formal civics education, and that schools provide voter registration forms to students when they turn 17.</p> <p>The proposal, which Caroll will attempt to see moved when the Legislature returns to session in January, is aimed at improving New York’s dismal record of voter turnout (among the worst states in the country). On Monday, Carroll rallied in support of the bill outside the city’s Board of Elections with fellow Brooklyn Democratic Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, as well as several politically engaged high school students and advocates.</p> <p>This included the leadership of the <a href="https://yppg-ny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Youth Progressive Policy Group</a> (YPPG), a group of students whose stated mission is to “give the youth of New York a voice in our state’s political process.” The group claims that engaging people in the electoral process early will lead to a more civically active life later on, and it is thus important to not only educate students in civics at an early age, but also to empower them to be a part of it.</p> <p>YPPG’s President, Eli Frankel, a senior at Manhattan’s Bard High School, was quick to note that 17-year-olds are productive members of civic society in other ways, and that this should be extended to voting.</p> <p>“We are organizing rallies like this, we’re going out and we’re talking to people, and a lot of 17-year-olds are contributing to their communities and have responsibilities of adulthood already,” Frankel told Gotham Gazette. “They’re paying taxes, they’re driving, some can enlist in the military. So, it’s time that voting is incorporated into those responsibilities that 17-year-olds already have so they can begin participating in government in a really substantive way so their voice is heard.”</p> <p>Chris Stauffer, YPPG’s vice chair and a senior at Bard, noted that in places where voting rights were extended to high school students, the turnout results have been very promising.</p> <p>“Sixteen- to 18-year-olds in Takoma Park, Maryland actually have double the turnout than 18- to 25-year-olds,” Stauffer told Gotham Gazette of the locality that has lowered its voting age to 16. “This is without any reform to civics education.” People who are still in high school may have fewer extraneous obligations than someone in the age bracket immediately following, where many are away from home at college, allowing them to vote with regularity and consistency and setting them up for a lifetime of civic engagement.</p> <p>Lowering the voting age alone might not be enough to spur extensive turnout among high school students and young people in general, which is why the bill includes more robust, comprehensive civics education in New York schools.</p> <p>The non-profit group Generation Citizen partners with schools in cities around the country, including New York City, to provide students with an “action civics” curriculum centered around local issues, wherein students seek to enact change in specific issue areas. Generation Citizen helps fill a gap in civics education found in many schools and school systems, but it currently operates in a relatively small percentage of classrooms.</p> <p>Civics education is often lacking in schools, especially as it relates to close-to-home politics and government.</p> <p>“A lot of civics courses focus on larger, more grand themes in American history,” Frankel said. “And the civics seminars that this bill mandates all students get really directs students on the nuts and bolts of how they can go out and vote, how they can fill out a ballot correctly, how to register to vote, how to make sure their voice is heard outside of voting, how elections work, and where they can find the information about candidates and about elections that they need to go out and turn out.”</p> <p>The bill also would provide for instant registration within schools. Schools currently have most relevant information for voter registration anyway, aside from an individual’s signature and party registration, according to YPPG Policy Director Max Shatan, a senior at Bard. This allows the process to involve minimal effort on the part of students.</p> <p>According to YPPG PR Director Ilana Cohen, a senior at the Beacon School in Manhattan, these foundational steps in schools would engage people in the process even more than simply allowing them to vote at 17.</p> <p>“Establishing the importance of voting in the classroom has a much greater effect than simply allowing teenagers to go out after high school and let them independently register to vote,” Cohen said.</p> <p>Prior to the bill’s introduction, Assemblymember Carroll sat down with some of the students at YPPG to gather input on a pre-registration bill already in the Assembly. According to Carroll’s chief of staff, Dan Campanelli, during this conversation Carroll suggested crafting a bill to lower the voting age to 17, which was ecstatically received by the students. Carroll subsequently worked on the bill with the students.</p> <p>“In this age of civic participation and interest, we need to make sure, in New York State, that we are teaching our young people what it means to be an active participant in their democracy,” Carroll said at Monday’s rally. “We teach young people all sorts of things. We teach them how to drive cars, we teach them how to take the SAT. We should teach them how to be active citizens and how to vote.”</p> <p>Although the bill has 23 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly including Carroll, it would have to overcome the significant hurdle of passing the Republican-controlled state Senate, as well as to bypass a culture in Albany that is notoriously resistant to voting reform. Senate Republicans have been resistant to election reform measures that have passed the Assembly, like early voting and same-day registration. Younger voters typically skew Democratic, giving another reason for the GOP to oppose Carroll’s bill, especially as Republicans cling to the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, only due to several rogue Democrats who either caucus or form a coalition with the GOP. Though Carroll largely did not speak to its chances in the Senate, he is confident in its ability to pass the Assembly if it gets out of committee there.</p> <p>“If you are against more people accessing the ballot box, then guess what? You’re against democracy,” Carroll said Monday. “And maybe you should get out of the business of holding elected office, because that’s the point of it.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that YPPG's members are seniors at Bard High School, not juniors.</p>
A Victory for School Based Health Centers, But More To Do 2017-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7151:a-victory-for-school-based-health-centers-but-more-to-do Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/carroll_simon.jpg" alt="carroll simon" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymembers Carroll &amp; Simon, the authors (photo via @Bobby4Brooklyn)</p> <hr /> <p>School based health centers (SBHCs) are a critical safety net for immigrants and the uninsured. There are 145 SBHCs serving students in more than 345 schools across the city, regardless of their ability to pay. SBHCs provide primary and preventive care, reproductive and mental health care, and first aid; manage chronic illnesses; and more. From asthma and diabetes to food allergies and anxiety, these clinics can make the difference between life and death for many of our schoolchildren.</p> <p>The clinics yield positive health outcomes and are cost-effective through their provision of preventive health care. They are also wildly popular with parents, students, and school administrators. The city wholeheartedly supports the clinics, which have been shown to reduce absenteeism and enhance school performance. The clinics also fulfill the state’s goal of access to community-based care.</p> <p>Therefore, it was alarming when four schools in&nbsp;District 15 received a letter in June from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which operates five SBHCs, informing them that state funding had been dramatically reduced and that the SUNY Downstate SBHCs were in jeopardy.&nbsp;</p> <p>A combination of a 20% cut in non-Medicaid funding in the 2017-18 State Budget ($3.9M), a May 2017 change by the State Department of Health to the funding methodology for the distribution of non-Medicaid funds, and a July 1, 2018 deadline to be carved-in to Medicaid Managed Care has created underfunding and instability to the SBHCs.&nbsp;</p> <p>SUNY Downstate was a big loser in the state’s funding methodology changes that followed closely on the heels of the state’s budget cuts: SUNY Downstate’s budget for 2017-18 was slashed by 70%, from $669,322 to $198,187. While some sponsors received more money and are scheduled to open new centers this year, some of the larger sponsors took significant blows to their budget; NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers also took a cut of over $500,000, as did Mt. Sinai Hospital, which experienced a nearly $700,000 loss.</p> <p>SUNY Downstate later announced that the cuts were unsustainable and that it could not operate four of its five centers. This included the centers at M.S. 51 William Alexander; Brooklyn New School (BNS) and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies; P.S. 38 the Pacific School; and the School for International Studies and Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School.</p> <p>Quickly, a coalition of parents, administrators, community leaders, labor unions, and elected officials came together to organize and fight back and everyone pitched in.&nbsp;An online petition in support of the centers was launched by the local elected officials. Jeremy Amar, a parent at MS 51, created posters of several student beneficiaries of the SBHCs with the slogan: “save your school based health center; community health starts here.” Amy Sumner, a parent coordinator from BNS 146, put out the call for personal stories about an SBHC and they poured in.</p> <p>Thankfully, the coalition’s advocacy efforts were successful. SUNY Downstate decided that no matter the level of state funding that it received, it will continue to operate the four clinics for this year.&nbsp;We are very grateful that SUNY Downstate has stepped up for our children, but recognize the need to ensure the long-term viability of the SBHCs. It’s very likely that we will need to find a new sponsor for the four centers next year and we all need to make sure SBHCs across the city and state are properly funded going forward.</p> <p>According to a study by the Children’s Defense Fund, next year’s Medicaid carve-in will reduce revenues to SBHCs by $16.3 million -- on top of this year’s cuts. Legislation was passed by the State Legislature to enact a permanent Medicaid Managed Carve-Out for SBHCs (A7866 /S6012). We are hopeful that Governor Cuomo will sign that bill into law by the end of the year.</p> <p>SBHCs are only one piece in a very complex and large health care system, but this experience has demonstrated that these small pieces often have a significant impact on the daily lives of New Yorkers and their children. We are proud that our coalition came together to save these clinics because they are vital to the health of our students in District 15 and as elected members of the state Assembly we are committed to seeing to it that they are preserved for many school years to come.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> By Robert Carroll, Assemblymember, 44th District, &amp; Jo Anne Simon, Assemblymember, 52nd District. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Bobby4Brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Bobby4Brooklyn</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JoAnneSimonBK52</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/carroll_simon.jpg" alt="carroll simon" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymembers Carroll &amp; Simon, the authors (photo via @Bobby4Brooklyn)</p> <hr /> <p>School based health centers (SBHCs) are a critical safety net for immigrants and the uninsured. There are 145 SBHCs serving students in more than 345 schools across the city, regardless of their ability to pay. SBHCs provide primary and preventive care, reproductive and mental health care, and first aid; manage chronic illnesses; and more. From asthma and diabetes to food allergies and anxiety, these clinics can make the difference between life and death for many of our schoolchildren.</p> <p>The clinics yield positive health outcomes and are cost-effective through their provision of preventive health care. They are also wildly popular with parents, students, and school administrators. The city wholeheartedly supports the clinics, which have been shown to reduce absenteeism and enhance school performance. The clinics also fulfill the state’s goal of access to community-based care.</p> <p>Therefore, it was alarming when four schools in&nbsp;District 15 received a letter in June from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which operates five SBHCs, informing them that state funding had been dramatically reduced and that the SUNY Downstate SBHCs were in jeopardy.&nbsp;</p> <p>A combination of a 20% cut in non-Medicaid funding in the 2017-18 State Budget ($3.9M), a May 2017 change by the State Department of Health to the funding methodology for the distribution of non-Medicaid funds, and a July 1, 2018 deadline to be carved-in to Medicaid Managed Care has created underfunding and instability to the SBHCs.&nbsp;</p> <p>SUNY Downstate was a big loser in the state’s funding methodology changes that followed closely on the heels of the state’s budget cuts: SUNY Downstate’s budget for 2017-18 was slashed by 70%, from $669,322 to $198,187. While some sponsors received more money and are scheduled to open new centers this year, some of the larger sponsors took significant blows to their budget; NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers also took a cut of over $500,000, as did Mt. Sinai Hospital, which experienced a nearly $700,000 loss.</p> <p>SUNY Downstate later announced that the cuts were unsustainable and that it could not operate four of its five centers. This included the centers at M.S. 51 William Alexander; Brooklyn New School (BNS) and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies; P.S. 38 the Pacific School; and the School for International Studies and Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School.</p> <p>Quickly, a coalition of parents, administrators, community leaders, labor unions, and elected officials came together to organize and fight back and everyone pitched in.&nbsp;An online petition in support of the centers was launched by the local elected officials. Jeremy Amar, a parent at MS 51, created posters of several student beneficiaries of the SBHCs with the slogan: “save your school based health center; community health starts here.” Amy Sumner, a parent coordinator from BNS 146, put out the call for personal stories about an SBHC and they poured in.</p> <p>Thankfully, the coalition’s advocacy efforts were successful. SUNY Downstate decided that no matter the level of state funding that it received, it will continue to operate the four clinics for this year.&nbsp;We are very grateful that SUNY Downstate has stepped up for our children, but recognize the need to ensure the long-term viability of the SBHCs. It’s very likely that we will need to find a new sponsor for the four centers next year and we all need to make sure SBHCs across the city and state are properly funded going forward.</p> <p>According to a study by the Children’s Defense Fund, next year’s Medicaid carve-in will reduce revenues to SBHCs by $16.3 million -- on top of this year’s cuts. Legislation was passed by the State Legislature to enact a permanent Medicaid Managed Carve-Out for SBHCs (A7866 /S6012). We are hopeful that Governor Cuomo will sign that bill into law by the end of the year.</p> <p>SBHCs are only one piece in a very complex and large health care system, but this experience has demonstrated that these small pieces often have a significant impact on the daily lives of New Yorkers and their children. We are proud that our coalition came together to save these clinics because they are vital to the health of our students in District 15 and as elected members of the state Assembly we are committed to seeing to it that they are preserved for many school years to come.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> By Robert Carroll, Assemblymember, 44th District, &amp; Jo Anne Simon, Assemblymember, 52nd District. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Bobby4Brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Bobby4Brooklyn</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JoAnneSimonBK52</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC’s New Class of State Legislators 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6818:adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/legislators/nyscapitolbuilding2.jpg" alt="nyscapitolbuilding2" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>photo via @NYSCapitolTours</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While the ethics trainings and orientation for new state legislators may have evolved over the years, one thing has remained constant: the daunting task of navigating the Capitol’s maze-like corridors during one’s first weeks of work in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">Orientation provides some roadmap to Albany’s byzantine legislative processes, including workshops in drafting bills, organizing a press conference, and conducting research, and legislative staffers are provided for support, but it can take a few weeks, if not months, for newly minted politicians to fully acclimate to life as a state lawmaker.</p> <p dir="ltr">In fact, much of the training happens on the job, according Assemblymember Tom McKevitt, who oversees the trainings for incoming Assembly members in the chamber’s Republican minority.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For many people they are coming to a different part of the state, they are leaving their families, leaving their hometowns, to come to a very different place,” said McKevitt, who represents part of Long Island, and has served in the Assembly for just over a decade. “New York State government is a massive operation. It really is. So we try to give them as much knowledge as possible and give them as much resources as possible to get them as productive a start to their legislative careers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">All new legislators in the Senate and the Assembly receive mandated training when they begin their legislative careers in Albany. In addition, each party conference provides training, as McKevitt indicated for the Assembly minority.</p> <p>
NEW LEGISLATORS

* AM Yuh-Line Niou
* Sen. Jamaal Bailey
* AM Robert Carroll
* AM Carmen De La Rosa
* AM Brian Barnwell
* AM Tremaine Wright
* AM Stacey Pheffer Amato
* Sen. Marisol Alcantara
* AM Clyde Vanel
* AM Inez Dickens
</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, there are 10 new state lawmakers from New York City, joining the 150-seat Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats, and the 63-seat Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Republicans. All of the new reps from the city are Democrats -- there are only a handful of New York City Republicans in the Legislature altogether, mostly from Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gotham Gazette began interviewing each of those 10 new members in February to gauge how they are adjusting to life in the state Legislature, which is notoriously dysfunctional and insulated, and has seen its share of corruption scandals in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the first weeks of the legislative calendar leading up to one-house budgets in March are always fairly intense for new legislators, this year appears to have been more so. As with other state capitals and city halls around the country, the inauguration of President Donald Trump, followed by the unconventional president’s chaotic first two months in office, have cast a long shadow over governing in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the Trump administration rushes to follow through on campaign promises to scale back reproductive rights, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and ban immigrants from select countries, many legislators, especially Democrats, are feeling more uncertainty and a greater sense of urgency. Both come in part from their constituents -- New Yorkers who overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in November.</p> <p dir="ltr">Several incoming lawmakers hailing from the five boroughs are facing challenging political climates in their districts and given local political dynamics. Yuh-Line Niou, now representing Lower Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District, must deliver for a constituency accustomed to receiving an exceptionally high level of resources given that the seat had been held for decades by (now convicted) former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>The 31st Senate District’s new representative, Marisol Alcantara, is a member of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), at a time when the breakaway group of Democrats that forms a coalition majority with Republicans is facing some significant backlash. Meanwhile, Senator Jamaal Bailey, of the 36th Senate District, is joining the mainline Senate Democratic Conference that is struggling in the minority.</p> <p>To begin our series on new city-based state legislators, Gotham Gazette spoke with Niou, Bailey, and Brooklyn Assemblymember Robert Carroll. Read their interviews through the links below, and stay tuned for our interviews with the seven other new lawmakers from the five boroughs.&nbsp;</p> <p>
yuh line niou2
Yuh-Line Niou

Assemblymember for the 65th District
Lower Manhattan
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“This is a constituency that literally had the most service and then almost no service for a period of time. It’s been a shock to the system.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou


</p> <p>
jamaal bailey
Jamaal Bailey

State Senator for the 36th District
Parts of the Bronx and Mount Vernon
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“But a lot of the preparation, it just comes in real-time. Just seeing the bill and you have to vote on it.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Senator Jamaal Bailey


</p> <p>
robert carroll 2
Robert Carroll

Assembly Member for 44th District
Brooklyn (Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Park Slope, Flatbush)
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“I think if you are going to be in politics, you have to understand that you’re not going to win every fight, and you have to be ready to stay in the arena.” 
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assembly Member Robert Carroll


</p> <p>
Carmen for assembly
Carmen De La Rosa

Assembly Member for 72nd District
Manhattan (Harlem, Inwood, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights)
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“It’s definitely a great place to be, coming from the City Council, it’s sort of government on a larger scale, so it’s a welcome challenge for me.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa


</p> <p>
Brian Bramwell
Brian Barnwell

Assembly member for the 30th District
Parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, and Woodside
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat
“The budget process was certainly long, but I don’t have a problem with that. In my opinion, it’s better to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate, instead of just doing the deal for the sake of doing a deal.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Brian Barnwell


</p> <p><em><strong>Coming soon, interviews with:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li>Assemblymember Tremaine Wright</li> <li>Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato</li> <li>Senator Marisol Alacantra</li> <li>Assemblymember Clyde Vanel</li> <li>Assemblymember Inez Dickens</li> </ul> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/legislators/nyscapitolbuilding2.jpg" alt="nyscapitolbuilding2" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>photo via @NYSCapitolTours</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While the ethics trainings and orientation for new state legislators may have evolved over the years, one thing has remained constant: the daunting task of navigating the Capitol’s maze-like corridors during one’s first weeks of work in Albany.</p> <p dir="ltr">Orientation provides some roadmap to Albany’s byzantine legislative processes, including workshops in drafting bills, organizing a press conference, and conducting research, and legislative staffers are provided for support, but it can take a few weeks, if not months, for newly minted politicians to fully acclimate to life as a state lawmaker.</p> <p dir="ltr">In fact, much of the training happens on the job, according Assemblymember Tom McKevitt, who oversees the trainings for incoming Assembly members in the chamber’s Republican minority.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For many people they are coming to a different part of the state, they are leaving their families, leaving their hometowns, to come to a very different place,” said McKevitt, who represents part of Long Island, and has served in the Assembly for just over a decade. “New York State government is a massive operation. It really is. So we try to give them as much knowledge as possible and give them as much resources as possible to get them as productive a start to their legislative careers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">All new legislators in the Senate and the Assembly receive mandated training when they begin their legislative careers in Albany. In addition, each party conference provides training, as McKevitt indicated for the Assembly minority.</p> <p>
NEW LEGISLATORS

* AM Yuh-Line Niou
* Sen. Jamaal Bailey
* AM Robert Carroll
* AM Carmen De La Rosa
* AM Brian Barnwell
* AM Tremaine Wright
* AM Stacey Pheffer Amato
* Sen. Marisol Alcantara
* AM Clyde Vanel
* AM Inez Dickens
</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, there are 10 new state lawmakers from New York City, joining the 150-seat Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats, and the 63-seat Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Republicans. All of the new reps from the city are Democrats -- there are only a handful of New York City Republicans in the Legislature altogether, mostly from Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gotham Gazette began interviewing each of those 10 new members in February to gauge how they are adjusting to life in the state Legislature, which is notoriously dysfunctional and insulated, and has seen its share of corruption scandals in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the first weeks of the legislative calendar leading up to one-house budgets in March are always fairly intense for new legislators, this year appears to have been more so. As with other state capitals and city halls around the country, the inauguration of President Donald Trump, followed by the unconventional president’s chaotic first two months in office, have cast a long shadow over governing in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the Trump administration rushes to follow through on campaign promises to scale back reproductive rights, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and ban immigrants from select countries, many legislators, especially Democrats, are feeling more uncertainty and a greater sense of urgency. Both come in part from their constituents -- New Yorkers who overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in November.</p> <p dir="ltr">Several incoming lawmakers hailing from the five boroughs are facing challenging political climates in their districts and given local political dynamics. Yuh-Line Niou, now representing Lower Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District, must deliver for a constituency accustomed to receiving an exceptionally high level of resources given that the seat had been held for decades by (now convicted) former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>The 31st Senate District’s new representative, Marisol Alcantara, is a member of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), at a time when the breakaway group of Democrats that forms a coalition majority with Republicans is facing some significant backlash. Meanwhile, Senator Jamaal Bailey, of the 36th Senate District, is joining the mainline Senate Democratic Conference that is struggling in the minority.</p> <p>To begin our series on new city-based state legislators, Gotham Gazette spoke with Niou, Bailey, and Brooklyn Assemblymember Robert Carroll. Read their interviews through the links below, and stay tuned for our interviews with the seven other new lawmakers from the five boroughs.&nbsp;</p> <p>
yuh line niou2
Yuh-Line Niou

Assemblymember for the 65th District
Lower Manhattan
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“This is a constituency that literally had the most service and then almost no service for a period of time. It’s been a shock to the system.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou


</p> <p>
jamaal bailey
Jamaal Bailey

State Senator for the 36th District
Parts of the Bronx and Mount Vernon
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“But a lot of the preparation, it just comes in real-time. Just seeing the bill and you have to vote on it.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Senator Jamaal Bailey


</p> <p>
robert carroll 2
Robert Carroll

Assembly Member for 44th District
Brooklyn (Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Park Slope, Flatbush)
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“I think if you are going to be in politics, you have to understand that you’re not going to win every fight, and you have to be ready to stay in the arena.” 
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assembly Member Robert Carroll


</p> <p>
Carmen for assembly
Carmen De La Rosa

Assembly Member for 72nd District
Manhattan (Harlem, Inwood, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights)
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat & Working Families Party
“It’s definitely a great place to be, coming from the City Council, it’s sort of government on a larger scale, so it’s a welcome challenge for me.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa


</p> <p>
Brian Bramwell
Brian Barnwell

Assembly member for the 30th District
Parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, and Woodside
Elected 2016; took office 2017
Democrat
“The budget process was certainly long, but I don’t have a problem with that. In my opinion, it’s better to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate, instead of just doing the deal for the sake of doing a deal.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW with Assemblymember Brian Barnwell


</p> <p><em><strong>Coming soon, interviews with:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li>Assemblymember Tremaine Wright</li> <li>Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato</li> <li>Senator Marisol Alacantra</li> <li>Assemblymember Clyde Vanel</li> <li>Assemblymember Inez Dickens</li> </ul> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Adjusting to Albany: Assemblymember Robert Carroll 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6816:adjusting-to-albany-assemblymember-robert-carroll Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/robert-carroll.jpg" alt="robert carroll" height="411" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Bobby Carroll (photo via @Bobby4Brooklyn)</p> <hr /> <p>A lifelong resident of Windsor Terrace, Robert “Bobby” Carroll hails from something of a Brooklyn political dynasty. His grandfather co-founded the influential Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) club, and, until he assumed his state Assembly seat, Bobby Carroll served as the club’s youngest president. Carroll previously worked as an attorney alongside his father, John Carroll, who has also served as CBID’s president, and in 2001 ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Democratic primary for City Council.</p> <p>Bobby Carroll is also a cousin of Bay Ridge Democratic district leader Kevin Peter Carroll, who is currently running for the 43rd City Council District seat.</p> <p>Carroll’s name recognition and political connections likely helped him shore up endorsements early in the race for the 44th Assembly District seat -- including from his now predecessor, Assemblymember James Brennan, who was retiring, other electeds, political clubs, and good government groups -- and now he is eager to make a name for himself as a progressive reformer on the state level.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette spoke with Carroll in February about his priorities for the upcoming session, his first few weeks in the Legislature, and more.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: What was the orientation like? Was there a sexual harassment training?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: We took several ethics courses and general orientation. And I believe all Assembly members go through sexual harassment training every two years. I am not sure which ones were because I am a freshman and which are regular training sessions.</p> <p>I noticed that you had the opportunity to to speak up on the floor in defense of the City Council’s plastic bag bill, despite the fact that the Legislature voted to block it. Were you disappointed with the way your chamber voted?</p> <p>Well I voted no, so obviously I would have rathered us not override the City Council bill. But, you know, that’s part of politics and part of democracy, that you are not always going to agree with your colleagues. What I do think is really important in government — and it’s the reason I’m in government— is to be a voice for your constituents, and to be your own voice, so then you can stand up and say ‘this is what I think, this is what I’ve decided on this issue.’</p> <p>I think it’s important to have an open and transparent debate so the vast views of our conference and our state are fully expressed on the floor of the Assembly and the state Senate, so that we can finally come to some type of agreement about how we are going to move forward in New York State.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Are there bills you are working on? What are your priorities for the session?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: We are working on some of the bills that Assembly Member Brennan had. He had a lot of bills in the 32 years that he was in office. That is just one set of bills that we are working on. We are also working on a bunch of bills around electoral reform, criminal justice reform right now. These issues are very, very pressing.</p> <p>We have the budget coming up, it's going to monopolize a lot of time for the next six weeks. [The budget] is...a very good litmus test for what we care about in the state, what we are going to spend money on. I think it's absolutely imperative that we make sure that we fully fund our public school system in New York City. If you look at the CFE [Campaign for Fiscal Equity], we are still short about $1.6 billion. It’s very, very important to have that fully funded.</p> <p>I think it’s very, very important to really dig down deep and see if we are actually funding the MTA capital budget through 2019. I think the projections that some folks have on operating funds that are going to come in through tolls and fares and other ways of raising revenues for the MTA are very optimistic. But we need to have very, very tough conversations about how we are investing in our education and our infrastructure. If we are investing in our infrastructure, those are great ways to spur business and create better lives for New Yorkers.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Are you enjoying Albany? The commute? Any favorite restaurants?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: I really like it. I take the train up. I enjoy the train — it’s a beautiful train ride on Amtrak. It’s quicker than driving most of the time. It’s only about two-and-a-half hours from Penn Station and from where I live it’s only about 30 minutes on the subway to Penn Station, so it’s really quick.</p> <p>I usually writes some emails, read the paper. There’s WiFi, so I’ll usually watch something on Netflix. When I’m up there I’ve been hopping around, a couple hotels, bed and breakfasts, kind of getting the lay of the land and a couple of different neighborhoods in Albany. I don’t drive, so I like to be within a 10- or 15-minute walk to the Capitol.</p> <p>I went out with my parents to Jack’s Oyster House — that was pretty cool, I really like that place on State Street, they have good oysters and pretty good steak. It’s a little expensive for a legislator to be going there often. There are a couple of different bars and restaurants a couple of Assembly members and I -- and some other folks -- have gone out to on occasion. But we are also in chambers a lot, just this Monday we were in chambers until 10:30 [p.m.]. So it's not a place where it's like happy hour every night. It’s 6:30 [p.m.] and people are like, ‘Oh, well, what are we going to do?’</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any moment you are particularly proud of or any disappointments, such as the plastic bag issue, for example?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: I wouldn’t consider the plastic bag thing a disappointment. I spoke up on behalf of my constituents and what I thought was right. I think if you are going to be in politics, you have to understand that you’re not going to win every fight, and you have to be ready to stay in the arena. I think there are going to be a lot of issues like that. I used to practice election law before I got here. We were with Attorney General Schneiderman...when he introduced his package of reforms.</p> <p>We are not only going to be fierce advocates for Schneiderman’s reform package, we are going have a couple bills in the next few weeks that are going to push that even further. I think we are going to be introducing a whole host of bills that will end up helping folks if we are talking about criminal justice, if we are talking about education, and if we are talking about our transportation system.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read more from our series,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou" target="_blank">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/robert-carroll.jpg" alt="robert carroll" height="411" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Bobby Carroll (photo via @Bobby4Brooklyn)</p> <hr /> <p>A lifelong resident of Windsor Terrace, Robert “Bobby” Carroll hails from something of a Brooklyn political dynasty. His grandfather co-founded the influential Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) club, and, until he assumed his state Assembly seat, Bobby Carroll served as the club’s youngest president. Carroll previously worked as an attorney alongside his father, John Carroll, who has also served as CBID’s president, and in 2001 ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Democratic primary for City Council.</p> <p>Bobby Carroll is also a cousin of Bay Ridge Democratic district leader Kevin Peter Carroll, who is currently running for the 43rd City Council District seat.</p> <p>Carroll’s name recognition and political connections likely helped him shore up endorsements early in the race for the 44th Assembly District seat -- including from his now predecessor, Assemblymember James Brennan, who was retiring, other electeds, political clubs, and good government groups -- and now he is eager to make a name for himself as a progressive reformer on the state level.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette spoke with Carroll in February about his priorities for the upcoming session, his first few weeks in the Legislature, and more.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: What was the orientation like? Was there a sexual harassment training?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: We took several ethics courses and general orientation. And I believe all Assembly members go through sexual harassment training every two years. I am not sure which ones were because I am a freshman and which are regular training sessions.</p> <p>I noticed that you had the opportunity to to speak up on the floor in defense of the City Council’s plastic bag bill, despite the fact that the Legislature voted to block it. Were you disappointed with the way your chamber voted?</p> <p>Well I voted no, so obviously I would have rathered us not override the City Council bill. But, you know, that’s part of politics and part of democracy, that you are not always going to agree with your colleagues. What I do think is really important in government — and it’s the reason I’m in government— is to be a voice for your constituents, and to be your own voice, so then you can stand up and say ‘this is what I think, this is what I’ve decided on this issue.’</p> <p>I think it’s important to have an open and transparent debate so the vast views of our conference and our state are fully expressed on the floor of the Assembly and the state Senate, so that we can finally come to some type of agreement about how we are going to move forward in New York State.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Are there bills you are working on? What are your priorities for the session?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: We are working on some of the bills that Assembly Member Brennan had. He had a lot of bills in the 32 years that he was in office. That is just one set of bills that we are working on. We are also working on a bunch of bills around electoral reform, criminal justice reform right now. These issues are very, very pressing.</p> <p>We have the budget coming up, it's going to monopolize a lot of time for the next six weeks. [The budget] is...a very good litmus test for what we care about in the state, what we are going to spend money on. I think it's absolutely imperative that we make sure that we fully fund our public school system in New York City. If you look at the CFE [Campaign for Fiscal Equity], we are still short about $1.6 billion. It’s very, very important to have that fully funded.</p> <p>I think it’s very, very important to really dig down deep and see if we are actually funding the MTA capital budget through 2019. I think the projections that some folks have on operating funds that are going to come in through tolls and fares and other ways of raising revenues for the MTA are very optimistic. But we need to have very, very tough conversations about how we are investing in our education and our infrastructure. If we are investing in our infrastructure, those are great ways to spur business and create better lives for New Yorkers.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Are you enjoying Albany? The commute? Any favorite restaurants?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: I really like it. I take the train up. I enjoy the train — it’s a beautiful train ride on Amtrak. It’s quicker than driving most of the time. It’s only about two-and-a-half hours from Penn Station and from where I live it’s only about 30 minutes on the subway to Penn Station, so it’s really quick.</p> <p>I usually writes some emails, read the paper. There’s WiFi, so I’ll usually watch something on Netflix. When I’m up there I’ve been hopping around, a couple hotels, bed and breakfasts, kind of getting the lay of the land and a couple of different neighborhoods in Albany. I don’t drive, so I like to be within a 10- or 15-minute walk to the Capitol.</p> <p>I went out with my parents to Jack’s Oyster House — that was pretty cool, I really like that place on State Street, they have good oysters and pretty good steak. It’s a little expensive for a legislator to be going there often. There are a couple of different bars and restaurants a couple of Assembly members and I -- and some other folks -- have gone out to on occasion. But we are also in chambers a lot, just this Monday we were in chambers until 10:30 [p.m.]. So it's not a place where it's like happy hour every night. It’s 6:30 [p.m.] and people are like, ‘Oh, well, what are we going to do?’</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any moment you are particularly proud of or any disappointments, such as the plastic bag issue, for example?</strong></em></p> <p>RC: I wouldn’t consider the plastic bag thing a disappointment. I spoke up on behalf of my constituents and what I thought was right. I think if you are going to be in politics, you have to understand that you’re not going to win every fight, and you have to be ready to stay in the arena. I think there are going to be a lot of issues like that. I used to practice election law before I got here. We were with Attorney General Schneiderman...when he introduced his package of reforms.</p> <p>We are not only going to be fierce advocates for Schneiderman’s reform package, we are going have a couple bills in the next few weeks that are going to push that even further. I think we are going to be introducing a whole host of bills that will end up helping folks if we are talking about criminal justice, if we are talking about education, and if we are talking about our transportation system.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read more from our series,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou" target="_blank">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Could Trump & Sanders Populism Fuel Constitutional Convention Approval? 2016-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6620:could-trump-sanders-populism-fuel-constitutional-convention-approval Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/bernie_hat_handshakes_1.jpg" alt="bernie hat handshakes 1" width="600" height="424" /></p> <p>Senator Bernie Sanders (photo: @BernieSanders)</p> <hr /> <p>With the 2016 presidential election over, can the populist fervor surrounding the candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump be harnessed into a new kind of revolution on a state level here in New York?</p> <p>A year from now, next Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on a referendum to call a Constitutional Convention, an opportunity to rewrite state laws that comes around once every 20 years. Proponents of the convention — at this point mostly academics and government reform groups like Citizens Union, but also Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are already pushing for New Yorkers to vote “yes” on the November 7, 2017 ballot question, saying it is a rare opportunity to take control of government, hold Albany leaders accountable, and enact ethics, elections, and other government reforms on specific issues like campaign finance, redistricting, voter registration, term limits, home rule, and more.</p> <p>Sanders and Trump, both of whom won most New York counties in their respective April <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york" target="_blank">primaries</a>, highlighted what they called the corrosive influence of wealthy interests and corporations on the political system and promised new kinds of people-powered government. They called the system rigged and broken, the government controlled by special interests, and spoke to the concerns of many voters who’ve lost faith in their elected representatives. They called for revolution, albeit with some essential differences.</p> <p>But what will become of these movements in the aftermath of this Election Day? A New York Constitutional Convention -- or ConCon, as it is often called -- provides a chance to engage these constituencies and their sense of marginalization to literally “take back the government" by rewriting any and all aspects of the state constitution. This, at a time when legislators seem unable or unwilling to police themselves, reform democratic systems, and address long-standing problems.</p> <p>A June <a href="https://www.siena.edu/news-events/article/by-two-to-one-voters-say-new-ethics-reform-legislation-will-not-reduce-corr" target="_blank">Siena College poll</a> showed that most New Yorkers do not trust the latest reform bills to stem corruption in Albany, and 68 percent said they’d support a Constitutional Convention. However, in the same poll, two-thirds of New Yorkers responded that they had read or heard nothing about a Constitutional Convention, and another quarter said they had heard “very little.”</p> <p>The last time a ConCon was on the ballot, in 1997, it was voted down by a two-to-one margin. With scant public awareness of the issue, and powerful interests lining up in opposition, voters’ views could easily shift against the idea as the next election nears -- as was the case during the last vote. Whether or not a populist fervor can be whipped up around a ConCon vote is one major 2017 question awaiting New York.</p> <p>One pro-ConCon group that has tried to capitalize on Sanders energy is the New Kings Democrats (NKD), a progressive reform political club in Brooklyn that voted almost unanimously to make ConCon <a href="http://www.newkingsdemocrats.com/concon" target="_blank">part of its platform</a> earlier this year. An officer of the group said NKD reached out to the Sanders campaign ahead of the New York primaries about the issue, but was rebuffed.</p> <p>“It kind of never got off the ground,” said Brandon West, the group’s vice president of policy and political affairs. “The response we got was, ‘We’re trying to get Bernie elected president; let us know if you want to help.’”</p> <p>A representative from Team Bernie New York declined to comment on a Constitutional Convention, saying before Election Day that while the team is aware of the ballot measure, it was focused electing Sanders-aligned candidates like Zephyr Teachout for Congress. (Teachout lost, but could be a powerful pro-ConCon voice if so inclined.)</p> <p>Local chapters of major and minor political parties Gotham Gazette spoke with — including the Working Families Party — have yet to take a public position on ConCon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, organized opposition to a Constitutional Convention is coming <a href="http://newyorkstateara.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/constitutional-convention-article-2015-gavin.pdf" target="_blank">from labor unions</a> and some environmental advocates who fear a nuclear approach to constitutional reform could put at risk workers’ pensions and environmental protections — such as <a href="http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/55849.html" target="_blank">a mandate</a> that the Adirondacks Mountains be kept “forever wild.”</p> <p>Those fears are echoed by many New York progressive reformers including Democratic State Assemblymember-elect Robert Carroll, whose political club Central Brooklyn Progressive Democrats (CBID) endorsed Sanders in the primary.</p> <p>"My worry is that there are lots of worker protections, environmental protections and a whole host of other progressive safeguards in the New York State constitution, and I want to make sure those are preserved," Carroll said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Carroll, and others, have noted that the ConCon delegate selection process is a main concern. The larger process would begin with ConCon approval through the ballot question on November 7, 2017. If approved, New Yorkers would then vote in 204 convention delegates on the following Election Day; the convention would commence the first Monday in April 2019; and New Yorkers would vote to ratify any proposed changes to the constitution as early as November 2019. (All proposed changes to the constitution that come from a ConCon are presented to voters for approval or disapproval.)</p> <p>While technically anyone can run as a ConCon delegate, in practice, those with power and name recognition -- including state lawmakers themselves -- are typically elected, resulting in little change to the system, as was the case at a rare government-initiated ConCon in 1967.</p> <p>“We don't know who is going to be in that convention or what the makeup will be,” said Carroll, warily of the hypothetical ConCon.</p> <p>J.H. Snider, a ConCon expert, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5753-preparing-for-new-yorks-next-constitutional-convention-referendum-cuomo-snider" target="_blank">has written in Gotham Gazette</a> that a truly fair and democratic ConCon vote would require legislators to be barred from running as convention delegates, and in fact, plural office-holding -- which is banned in other states -- is one of the issues a constitutional convention could address.</p> <p>Gov. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, said during his January State of the State that, “a constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and re-engage the public.”</p> <p>But, the $1 million that Cuomo proposed to include in the state budget to fund a preparatory committee for a potential ConCon did not appear in the spending plan approved a few months later.</p> <p>During the general election, Sanders urged his supporters to embrace Clinton, and his movement has splintered into different factions, some reluctantly embracing the Democratic nominee, another segment backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and still other organizations — like Team Bernie New York — pushing for candidates in local races that aligned with Sanders’ message.</p> <p>Every pro-Sanders group Gotham Gazette spoke to said that the ConCon referendum is not a priority on its post-primary agenda. It is quite early, but if 2016 momentum is not captured and continued, it may be gone for good.</p> <p>Michael Blecher, a former Sanders activist who now runs a grassroots organization called <a href="https://politicsreborn.org/" target="_blank">Politics Reborn</a>, said his group is currently focused on democratizing New York City’s district leader and county committee races, and that he is cynical of ConCon’s potential delegate selection process. However, he noted that attitudes among his fellow Sanders supporters might shift following the presidential election.</p> <p>“[Sanders organizers] are about to have this existential crisis — after November 8 —&nbsp;as far as whether certain progressive leaders are willing to put it front and a center,” said Blecher of ConCon during an October interview.</p> <p>For example, he said, Politics Reborn might consider informing the public about the ballot question as part of its canvassing efforts. Reforming how district leaders and county committee representatives are chosen could be a serious plank at a ConCon, but Blecher’s cynicism about the prospects for true reform appear fairly widespread, at least at this point and among those who know about a ConCon.</p> <p>Political scientist and SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin said Constitutional Convention advocates like himself face an uphill battle in reaching voters and expressed frustration at the lack of political organization.</p> <p>“Where is the organized effort? It’s a year out and where are the resources? The people who want people to know about this are out there giving speeches — including me — but we are talking about telling millions of people that this is an opportunity to participate in major legislative reform,” he said.</p> <p>In contrast to the tepid response from Sanders organizers, ahead of the election, New York Trump supporters told Gotham Gazette that regardless of its outcome, a ConCon would be a crucial part of their strategy to gain more citizen control over state government. Trump surrogate Carl Paladino — a Buffalo businessman who ran for governor in 2010 and has a history of Trump-like rhetoric — said he hoped a ConCon would dismantle the old power structures crippling Albany.</p> <p>"Our state has decayed so much from the control of the progressive liberals; it has to happen, and I would want very much to be a part of it,” said Paladino. A ConCon would allow the public to pass laws without going through a Legislature “controlled by a dictator like Sheldon Silver,” he added, referencing the disgraced former Assembly Speaker, a Manhattan Democrat now convicted on public corruption charges.</p> <p>Both Republicans and Democrats have an interest in enacting term limits and other governmental reforms, but if they fail to form an organized coalition, extreme voices like Paladino’s have the potential to scare voters off, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“It can only work if the reasonable and responsible people organize, but if the Paladinos come forward as a force for change, it’s going to fail for sure,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>New York City, which makes up 40 percent of the statewide electorate, is likely to be weighted significantly more heavily in the upcoming vote, since it coincides with the city’s 2017 mayoral and other municipal elections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for re-election next year, has expressed skepticism about a ConCon. In a recent interview <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-10616" target="_blank">with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer</a>, de Blasio suggested the convention would be corrupted by big money interests.</p> <p>“If corporations were banned and wealthy individuals were banned from dominating the political process, I would be very interested in the Constitutional Convention that could actually fix a lot of problems in the state constitution,” de Blasio said, in response to a question from a caller to the show, “but my hesitation has always been – we’re literally talking about a rigged economy.”</p> <p>If the mayor decides to take a more decisive and forceful position on the convention, it could sway the vote. Conversely, as John Kenny, publisher of New York True, <a href="http://www.newyorktrue.com/trump-concon-effect/" target="_blank">points out</a> there remains the possibility that a Republican mayoral challenger — <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, perhaps</a> — would come out in favor of a convention and drive a “yes” vote.</p> <p>Political scientist and Hunter College professor Kenneth Sherrill, who is pushing for a ConCon, says the power of big money to derail the convention has been overstated.</p> <p>“It’s a difficult political process to get on,” he said. “There are lots of big money interests, but they are countervailing interests. While the Koch brothers might give their interests, for example, they will have no interest in ‘forever wild.’ It's not as if big money is going to be a unified force in this.”</p> <p>One issue wealthier interests, which can include labor unions, will likely be unified on, though, is preventing limitations on campaign contributions. A Republican state Senate has prevented the passage of campaign finance reform in Albany, even closure of the notorious LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from entities who set up multiple limited liability corporations. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6409-cuomo-appears-to-give-up-on-legislature-closing-llc-loophole" target="_blank">Cuomo has said</a> that it appears the only way the LLC loophole will be closed is if “the people do it.” Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">do question</a> Cuomo’s commitment to a ConCon since the money did for the preparatory committee for a ConCon <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">did not make it into</a> the final 2017 budget, indicating little support from top state electeds. Cuomo did stump for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which would lead to closure of the loophole and other campaign finance reform, but that effort appears to have failed. The GOP retained its Senate majority on Tuesday, perhaps giving Democrats more impetus to pursue change through a convention.</p> <p>The New York State constitution -- which dates back to 1777 -- was mostly rewritten at a 1894 convention, with significant changes made at the 1937 convention. While several amendments have been made since, parts are outdated, and some argue that a Constitutional Convention is necessary simply to update the lengthy, convoluted document. However, if Bernie Sanders supporters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city and state choose not to jump on board with the convention soon, pro-ConCon Trump voices may spook many New Yorkers, reinforcing the fears that it would endanger hard-won progressive measures, leaving the decision up to the next generation of voters — in 2037.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been corrected to remove menton of NYPIRG and League of Women Voters as having endorsed a Constitutional Convention.</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/bernie_hat_handshakes_1.jpg" alt="bernie hat handshakes 1" width="600" height="424" /></p> <p>Senator Bernie Sanders (photo: @BernieSanders)</p> <hr /> <p>With the 2016 presidential election over, can the populist fervor surrounding the candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump be harnessed into a new kind of revolution on a state level here in New York?</p> <p>A year from now, next Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on a referendum to call a Constitutional Convention, an opportunity to rewrite state laws that comes around once every 20 years. Proponents of the convention — at this point mostly academics and government reform groups like Citizens Union, but also Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are already pushing for New Yorkers to vote “yes” on the November 7, 2017 ballot question, saying it is a rare opportunity to take control of government, hold Albany leaders accountable, and enact ethics, elections, and other government reforms on specific issues like campaign finance, redistricting, voter registration, term limits, home rule, and more.</p> <p>Sanders and Trump, both of whom won most New York counties in their respective April <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york" target="_blank">primaries</a>, highlighted what they called the corrosive influence of wealthy interests and corporations on the political system and promised new kinds of people-powered government. They called the system rigged and broken, the government controlled by special interests, and spoke to the concerns of many voters who’ve lost faith in their elected representatives. They called for revolution, albeit with some essential differences.</p> <p>But what will become of these movements in the aftermath of this Election Day? A New York Constitutional Convention -- or ConCon, as it is often called -- provides a chance to engage these constituencies and their sense of marginalization to literally “take back the government" by rewriting any and all aspects of the state constitution. This, at a time when legislators seem unable or unwilling to police themselves, reform democratic systems, and address long-standing problems.</p> <p>A June <a href="https://www.siena.edu/news-events/article/by-two-to-one-voters-say-new-ethics-reform-legislation-will-not-reduce-corr" target="_blank">Siena College poll</a> showed that most New Yorkers do not trust the latest reform bills to stem corruption in Albany, and 68 percent said they’d support a Constitutional Convention. However, in the same poll, two-thirds of New Yorkers responded that they had read or heard nothing about a Constitutional Convention, and another quarter said they had heard “very little.”</p> <p>The last time a ConCon was on the ballot, in 1997, it was voted down by a two-to-one margin. With scant public awareness of the issue, and powerful interests lining up in opposition, voters’ views could easily shift against the idea as the next election nears -- as was the case during the last vote. Whether or not a populist fervor can be whipped up around a ConCon vote is one major 2017 question awaiting New York.</p> <p>One pro-ConCon group that has tried to capitalize on Sanders energy is the New Kings Democrats (NKD), a progressive reform political club in Brooklyn that voted almost unanimously to make ConCon <a href="http://www.newkingsdemocrats.com/concon" target="_blank">part of its platform</a> earlier this year. An officer of the group said NKD reached out to the Sanders campaign ahead of the New York primaries about the issue, but was rebuffed.</p> <p>“It kind of never got off the ground,” said Brandon West, the group’s vice president of policy and political affairs. “The response we got was, ‘We’re trying to get Bernie elected president; let us know if you want to help.’”</p> <p>A representative from Team Bernie New York declined to comment on a Constitutional Convention, saying before Election Day that while the team is aware of the ballot measure, it was focused electing Sanders-aligned candidates like Zephyr Teachout for Congress. (Teachout lost, but could be a powerful pro-ConCon voice if so inclined.)</p> <p>Local chapters of major and minor political parties Gotham Gazette spoke with — including the Working Families Party — have yet to take a public position on ConCon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, organized opposition to a Constitutional Convention is coming <a href="http://newyorkstateara.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/constitutional-convention-article-2015-gavin.pdf" target="_blank">from labor unions</a> and some environmental advocates who fear a nuclear approach to constitutional reform could put at risk workers’ pensions and environmental protections — such as <a href="http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/55849.html" target="_blank">a mandate</a> that the Adirondacks Mountains be kept “forever wild.”</p> <p>Those fears are echoed by many New York progressive reformers including Democratic State Assemblymember-elect Robert Carroll, whose political club Central Brooklyn Progressive Democrats (CBID) endorsed Sanders in the primary.</p> <p>"My worry is that there are lots of worker protections, environmental protections and a whole host of other progressive safeguards in the New York State constitution, and I want to make sure those are preserved," Carroll said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Carroll, and others, have noted that the ConCon delegate selection process is a main concern. The larger process would begin with ConCon approval through the ballot question on November 7, 2017. If approved, New Yorkers would then vote in 204 convention delegates on the following Election Day; the convention would commence the first Monday in April 2019; and New Yorkers would vote to ratify any proposed changes to the constitution as early as November 2019. (All proposed changes to the constitution that come from a ConCon are presented to voters for approval or disapproval.)</p> <p>While technically anyone can run as a ConCon delegate, in practice, those with power and name recognition -- including state lawmakers themselves -- are typically elected, resulting in little change to the system, as was the case at a rare government-initiated ConCon in 1967.</p> <p>“We don't know who is going to be in that convention or what the makeup will be,” said Carroll, warily of the hypothetical ConCon.</p> <p>J.H. Snider, a ConCon expert, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5753-preparing-for-new-yorks-next-constitutional-convention-referendum-cuomo-snider" target="_blank">has written in Gotham Gazette</a> that a truly fair and democratic ConCon vote would require legislators to be barred from running as convention delegates, and in fact, plural office-holding -- which is banned in other states -- is one of the issues a constitutional convention could address.</p> <p>Gov. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, said during his January State of the State that, “a constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and re-engage the public.”</p> <p>But, the $1 million that Cuomo proposed to include in the state budget to fund a preparatory committee for a potential ConCon did not appear in the spending plan approved a few months later.</p> <p>During the general election, Sanders urged his supporters to embrace Clinton, and his movement has splintered into different factions, some reluctantly embracing the Democratic nominee, another segment backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and still other organizations — like Team Bernie New York — pushing for candidates in local races that aligned with Sanders’ message.</p> <p>Every pro-Sanders group Gotham Gazette spoke to said that the ConCon referendum is not a priority on its post-primary agenda. It is quite early, but if 2016 momentum is not captured and continued, it may be gone for good.</p> <p>Michael Blecher, a former Sanders activist who now runs a grassroots organization called <a href="https://politicsreborn.org/" target="_blank">Politics Reborn</a>, said his group is currently focused on democratizing New York City’s district leader and county committee races, and that he is cynical of ConCon’s potential delegate selection process. However, he noted that attitudes among his fellow Sanders supporters might shift following the presidential election.</p> <p>“[Sanders organizers] are about to have this existential crisis — after November 8 —&nbsp;as far as whether certain progressive leaders are willing to put it front and a center,” said Blecher of ConCon during an October interview.</p> <p>For example, he said, Politics Reborn might consider informing the public about the ballot question as part of its canvassing efforts. Reforming how district leaders and county committee representatives are chosen could be a serious plank at a ConCon, but Blecher’s cynicism about the prospects for true reform appear fairly widespread, at least at this point and among those who know about a ConCon.</p> <p>Political scientist and SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin said Constitutional Convention advocates like himself face an uphill battle in reaching voters and expressed frustration at the lack of political organization.</p> <p>“Where is the organized effort? It’s a year out and where are the resources? The people who want people to know about this are out there giving speeches — including me — but we are talking about telling millions of people that this is an opportunity to participate in major legislative reform,” he said.</p> <p>In contrast to the tepid response from Sanders organizers, ahead of the election, New York Trump supporters told Gotham Gazette that regardless of its outcome, a ConCon would be a crucial part of their strategy to gain more citizen control over state government. Trump surrogate Carl Paladino — a Buffalo businessman who ran for governor in 2010 and has a history of Trump-like rhetoric — said he hoped a ConCon would dismantle the old power structures crippling Albany.</p> <p>"Our state has decayed so much from the control of the progressive liberals; it has to happen, and I would want very much to be a part of it,” said Paladino. A ConCon would allow the public to pass laws without going through a Legislature “controlled by a dictator like Sheldon Silver,” he added, referencing the disgraced former Assembly Speaker, a Manhattan Democrat now convicted on public corruption charges.</p> <p>Both Republicans and Democrats have an interest in enacting term limits and other governmental reforms, but if they fail to form an organized coalition, extreme voices like Paladino’s have the potential to scare voters off, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“It can only work if the reasonable and responsible people organize, but if the Paladinos come forward as a force for change, it’s going to fail for sure,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>New York City, which makes up 40 percent of the statewide electorate, is likely to be weighted significantly more heavily in the upcoming vote, since it coincides with the city’s 2017 mayoral and other municipal elections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for re-election next year, has expressed skepticism about a ConCon. In a recent interview <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-10616" target="_blank">with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer</a>, de Blasio suggested the convention would be corrupted by big money interests.</p> <p>“If corporations were banned and wealthy individuals were banned from dominating the political process, I would be very interested in the Constitutional Convention that could actually fix a lot of problems in the state constitution,” de Blasio said, in response to a question from a caller to the show, “but my hesitation has always been – we’re literally talking about a rigged economy.”</p> <p>If the mayor decides to take a more decisive and forceful position on the convention, it could sway the vote. Conversely, as John Kenny, publisher of New York True, <a href="http://www.newyorktrue.com/trump-concon-effect/" target="_blank">points out</a> there remains the possibility that a Republican mayoral challenger — <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, perhaps</a> — would come out in favor of a convention and drive a “yes” vote.</p> <p>Political scientist and Hunter College professor Kenneth Sherrill, who is pushing for a ConCon, says the power of big money to derail the convention has been overstated.</p> <p>“It’s a difficult political process to get on,” he said. “There are lots of big money interests, but they are countervailing interests. While the Koch brothers might give their interests, for example, they will have no interest in ‘forever wild.’ It's not as if big money is going to be a unified force in this.”</p> <p>One issue wealthier interests, which can include labor unions, will likely be unified on, though, is preventing limitations on campaign contributions. A Republican state Senate has prevented the passage of campaign finance reform in Albany, even closure of the notorious LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from entities who set up multiple limited liability corporations. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6409-cuomo-appears-to-give-up-on-legislature-closing-llc-loophole" target="_blank">Cuomo has said</a> that it appears the only way the LLC loophole will be closed is if “the people do it.” Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">do question</a> Cuomo’s commitment to a ConCon since the money did for the preparatory committee for a ConCon <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">did not make it into</a> the final 2017 budget, indicating little support from top state electeds. Cuomo did stump for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which would lead to closure of the loophole and other campaign finance reform, but that effort appears to have failed. The GOP retained its Senate majority on Tuesday, perhaps giving Democrats more impetus to pursue change through a convention.</p> <p>The New York State constitution -- which dates back to 1777 -- was mostly rewritten at a 1894 convention, with significant changes made at the 1937 convention. While several amendments have been made since, parts are outdated, and some argue that a Constitutional Convention is necessary simply to update the lengthy, convoluted document. However, if Bernie Sanders supporters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city and state choose not to jump on board with the convention soon, pro-ConCon Trump voices may spook many New Yorkers, reinforcing the fears that it would endanger hard-won progressive measures, leaving the decision up to the next generation of voters — in 2037.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been corrected to remove menton of NYPIRG and League of Women Voters as having endorsed a Constitutional Convention.</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Two Very Different Democratic Assembly Primaries in Brooklyn 2016-09-01T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6507:two-different-democratic-assembly-primaries-in-brooklyn Milka Nissinen <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Pam_Harris_voting_via_Facebook.jpg" alt="Pam Harris voting via Facebook" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Harris votes (photo via Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Among the upcoming legislative primary elections, two Brooklyn State Assembly races with very different storylines are intensifying. Unusual electoral circumstances in the 44th and 46th Assembly Districts make the contests races to watch. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the 44th seat, which is opening up due to the retirement of the longtime incumbent, is home to a short, frenzied primary race among three Democrats. In the 46th, an embattled short-term incumbent and an experienced Democratic challenger battle for the Southern Brooklyn seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny resigned in July 2015 to take a private sector job and Pamela Harris won the seat in a November special election. Now, with less than a year of experience in the Assembly, Harris faces Kate Cucco, who served as chief of staff for Brook-Krasny from 2008 to 2015. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 44th, Assemblymember James Brennan announced his sudden <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/James-F-Brennan/story/70224/" target="_blank">retirement</a> from public office this past May, just eights days before the candidate filing deadline. He simultaneously backed the race&rsquo;s apparent frontrunner, Robert Carroll, who had been running for District Leader and eyeing an Assembly bid down the road. Two other Democrats, Troy Odendhal and Rob Curry-Smithson, announced their candidacy soon after.</p> <p dir="ltr">One primary features two women, the other three men. In one, the 46th, establishment Democrats are divided between the two candidates, while in the other, the 44th, most Democratic elected officials and clubs are coalescing behind one candidate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these races show interesting decisions within the city&rsquo;s Democratic machinery, the two districts reflect the common socioeconomic contrasts of neighboring communities in New York City. District 44 includes both Park Slope, a neighborhood that, according to <a href="https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/" target="_blank">a 2010-2012 Census report</a>, had a median household income of $87,896, and Flatbush, at $42,144 per household. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">District 46 includes similar economic disparities, with communities like Bay Ridge, home to a median household income of $53,500, and Coney Island, at $29, 712.</p> <p><strong>Assembly District 46</strong><br />Cucco, who is from Ohio but has called Bay Ridge home for a number of years, says that all residents of the district raise similar concerns no matter their income.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every group, whether you&rsquo;re in Dyker Heights or Coney Island or Sea Gate, everyone wants the same thing,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;They want to feel safe when they&rsquo;re walking outside, they want to know their kids and grandkids are going to the best school possible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco says her experience working for the residents of the district as Brook-Krasny&rsquo;s chief of staff makes her a stronger candidate than the incumbent, Harris, the first black Assembly candidate to win a majority white district in New York City&rsquo;s history.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I worked for the Assembly, in this district, for almost nine years,&rdquo; Cucco said during an interview at the Bridgeview Diner, a Bay Ridge restaurant. &ldquo;I think that opens a lot of doors and a lot of connections in terms of knowing how to fight for legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, Cucco says election reform remains at the top of her legislative to-do list.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For such a progressive state, we&rsquo;re so behind the curve on where we stand with elections,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think we should make it easier for all constituents, members of the state, to vote.&rdquo; Despite New York&rsquo;s notoriously antiquated election and voting laws, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">little movement has been made on reform</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Cucco, Assemblymember Harris, who grew up in the district, says she finds the interests of residents to be similar in most neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There is such diverse groups of people who are all striving for the same thing,&rdquo; Harris said in a phone interview. &ldquo;Safety, affordable housing, good places for their kids to play and good school programs.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris, a former corrections officer at Rikers and native of Coney Island, said she represents all of her constituents and does not see the division between police and communities of color that has been the focus of much discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know there was a divide, honestly,&rdquo; Harris said when asked about representing both constituencies. &ldquo;I think we just have to remember the need of the district. We have to make sure there is no need in the district and I was able to champion that in my first six months of office.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris said addressing personal issues about her family continues to be the most challenging part of the campaign. The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/brooklyn-assemblywoman-owes-30g-back-taxes-article-1.2733474" target="_blank">reported</a> that Harris and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and there have been multiple reports detailing questions about the nonprofit she founded, the Coney Island Generation Gap, and its tax filings. Harris <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/46-ad-race-harris-releases-open-letter-explaining-financial-woes/" target="_blank">publicly responded</a> to the Daily News report and addressed the reasons behind her bankruptcy, including health issues for her and other family members.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I now have to explain what happened to me,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m okay with talking about me, but I don&rsquo;t want to take the time out to do so. Yes, I did deal with Chapter 13. But unfortunately, I had breast cancer and I had a really bad strain. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My husband got sick.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But you know, wait, don&rsquo;t worry about me,&rdquo; she continued, and asked rhetorically, &ldquo;What is it you need? What is it that you would like me to do?&rdquo; Harris said that she wants the focus of the campaign to be constituents&rsquo; needs, not her personal issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco recently released a <a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0a3cec43339acb94cfc3d7253/files/Cucco_70Point_Policy.pdf" target="_blank">70-Point Policy plan</a> which focuses on election reform, in addition to free SUNY and CUNY tuition for students with at least a B average and improving access to affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">If re-elected, Harris said she hopes to continue to fight for the large senior population in District 46 through affordable housing and social engagement programs. A bill authored by Harris aimed at helping residents in naturally occurring retirement homes qualify for state funding was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month.</p> <p>A flashpoint in the race is the involvement of outside Super PACs, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">which have been spending</a> on behalf of both Cucco and Harris. The issue was at the center of contentious exchanges during <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/09/1/ny1-online--fight-for-the-46th.html" target="_blank">a Thursday evening debate</a> on NY1's Inside City Hall, with the main issue at hand a state bill for an education tax credit that would mainly benefit donors to private schools. Harris' nonprofit also came up during the NY1 debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the 46th District Democratic primary will face Lucretia Regina-Potter, of the Republican Party, Mikhail Usher, of the Conservative Party, and Patrick Dwyer, of the Green Party, in the general election. In an overwhelmingly Democratic district, that candidate&rsquo;s party will be favored to win.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Assembly District 44<br /></strong>In State Assembly District 44, three Democrats fight for the seat being left vacant by Assemblymember James Brennan, who announced in May that after 32 years in office he will not seek re-election. Brennan announced his retirement and endorsed attorney Robert Carroll. Carroll, who identifies as a progressive and actively supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, dropped out of the District Leader race to pursue the open seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">The somewhat surprising vacancy and endorsement brought criticism from Troy Odendhal, a community developer and freelance journalist who is running for the seat in the Democratic primary. &ldquo;With such short notice on the vacancy of the seat, this was used as tactic by the democratic machine to overtly exclude potential candidates in the 44th Assembly District,&rdquo; reads a statement on Odendhal&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.troyodendhal2016.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Odendhal filed an objection with the Board of Elections against his challenger regarding the signatures Carroll collected to get on the ballot. <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/44-ad-race-odendhal-carroll-cross-swords-petition-challenges/" target="_blank">According to</a>&nbsp;Kings County Politics, Odendhal&rsquo;s campaign found errors with the petitions, including signatures of individuals who live out of the district, without addresses listed or names written in illegible handwriting. Carroll filed more than 7,300 signatures; Odendhal 870 (the required number to get on the ballot is 500).</p> <p dir="ltr">A third candidate, Rob Curry-Smithson, a history teacher who, like Carroll, campaigned for Bernie Sanders, describes himself not only as a &ldquo;Berniecrat&rdquo; but as &ldquo;an educator, not the establishment,&rdquo; on his campaign&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.robcurrysmithson.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Curry-Smithson channels Sanders&rsquo; rhetoric when talking about public education and healthcare. In an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/8/11/sanders-supporter-hopes-shake-assembly-race" target="_blank">interview with the Brooklyn Eagle</a>, he explained the reason behind his reform campaign, and referred to the process by which Brennan was attempting to choose replacement.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also was concerned that there seemed to be no competition, but a passing of the torch from someone who has been in office since I was two years old to a successor chosen by the party establishment,&rdquo; he wrote in an email to the Eagle. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Carroll not only has the backing of Brennan, but a long list of Democratic officials and organizations, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the Working Families Party, and the New York State United Teachers labor union.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to his campaign <a href="http://www.robertcarroll2016.com/issues" target="_blank">website</a>, if elected to office, Carroll hopes to improve ethics in Albany, institute paid sick leave as well as strengthen gun control laws.</p> <p dir="ltr">As expected, he leads in fundraising. Carroll has received $98,217 for his Assembly run as of July, according to his State Board of Elections <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/filer_contribution_details" target="_blank">filings</a>. Odendhal, who is self-funding his campaign, <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/EXPENSESA_county?ID_in=A21610&amp;date_From=&amp;date_to=&amp;OFFICE_in=ALL&amp;AMOUNT_From=&amp;AMOUNT_to=&amp;ZIP1=&amp;ZIP2=&amp;ORDERBY_IN=N" target="_blank">has spent</a> about $5446.00 on his campaign, as of late July filings, and Curry-Smithson has no fundraising recorded to date.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the District 44 Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Glenn Nocera, president of the Brooklyn Tea Party, who has also the Conservative Party line on the ballot, in the November general election. If successful in the Democratic primary, Carroll is set to have the Working Families Party ballot line in November.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Heading to Albany<br /></strong>Democrats have a large majority in the state Assembly and winners of the 44th and 46th District Democratic primaries are likely to be part of that majority in Albany when the State Legislature reconvenes in January. The results of November&rsquo;s general elections will determine control of the state Senate, which has been led by Republicans over most of the past several decades, but where the balance of power is almost evenly split.</p> <p dir="ltr">Turnout for the September 13 primaries is not expected to be high, especially given that it is the third primary date of this election year in New York, after the April presidential primary and June congressional primary. November is likely to be a different story, though, with the presidential race drawing more voters to the ballot box.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco, running in the 46th AD, said the over-saturation of the presidential campaign may inspire residents to get more involved this election cycle.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think that everything that&rsquo;s happening on the national level this year, you know with both parties, people, whether they like or don&rsquo;t like the national candidates running for president, they&rsquo;re hyper aware of the sense of local government and its importance,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected regarding the timing of Brennan's retirement announcement and how much time there was for candidates to get on the ballot.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Pam_Harris_voting_via_Facebook.jpg" alt="Pam Harris voting via Facebook" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Harris votes (photo via Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Among the upcoming legislative primary elections, two Brooklyn State Assembly races with very different storylines are intensifying. Unusual electoral circumstances in the 44th and 46th Assembly Districts make the contests races to watch. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the 44th seat, which is opening up due to the retirement of the longtime incumbent, is home to a short, frenzied primary race among three Democrats. In the 46th, an embattled short-term incumbent and an experienced Democratic challenger battle for the Southern Brooklyn seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny resigned in July 2015 to take a private sector job and Pamela Harris won the seat in a November special election. Now, with less than a year of experience in the Assembly, Harris faces Kate Cucco, who served as chief of staff for Brook-Krasny from 2008 to 2015. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 44th, Assemblymember James Brennan announced his sudden <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/James-F-Brennan/story/70224/" target="_blank">retirement</a> from public office this past May, just eights days before the candidate filing deadline. He simultaneously backed the race&rsquo;s apparent frontrunner, Robert Carroll, who had been running for District Leader and eyeing an Assembly bid down the road. Two other Democrats, Troy Odendhal and Rob Curry-Smithson, announced their candidacy soon after.</p> <p dir="ltr">One primary features two women, the other three men. In one, the 46th, establishment Democrats are divided between the two candidates, while in the other, the 44th, most Democratic elected officials and clubs are coalescing behind one candidate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these races show interesting decisions within the city&rsquo;s Democratic machinery, the two districts reflect the common socioeconomic contrasts of neighboring communities in New York City. District 44 includes both Park Slope, a neighborhood that, according to <a href="https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/" target="_blank">a 2010-2012 Census report</a>, had a median household income of $87,896, and Flatbush, at $42,144 per household. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">District 46 includes similar economic disparities, with communities like Bay Ridge, home to a median household income of $53,500, and Coney Island, at $29, 712.</p> <p><strong>Assembly District 46</strong><br />Cucco, who is from Ohio but has called Bay Ridge home for a number of years, says that all residents of the district raise similar concerns no matter their income.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every group, whether you&rsquo;re in Dyker Heights or Coney Island or Sea Gate, everyone wants the same thing,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;They want to feel safe when they&rsquo;re walking outside, they want to know their kids and grandkids are going to the best school possible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco says her experience working for the residents of the district as Brook-Krasny&rsquo;s chief of staff makes her a stronger candidate than the incumbent, Harris, the first black Assembly candidate to win a majority white district in New York City&rsquo;s history.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I worked for the Assembly, in this district, for almost nine years,&rdquo; Cucco said during an interview at the Bridgeview Diner, a Bay Ridge restaurant. &ldquo;I think that opens a lot of doors and a lot of connections in terms of knowing how to fight for legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, Cucco says election reform remains at the top of her legislative to-do list.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For such a progressive state, we&rsquo;re so behind the curve on where we stand with elections,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think we should make it easier for all constituents, members of the state, to vote.&rdquo; Despite New York&rsquo;s notoriously antiquated election and voting laws, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">little movement has been made on reform</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Cucco, Assemblymember Harris, who grew up in the district, says she finds the interests of residents to be similar in most neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There is such diverse groups of people who are all striving for the same thing,&rdquo; Harris said in a phone interview. &ldquo;Safety, affordable housing, good places for their kids to play and good school programs.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris, a former corrections officer at Rikers and native of Coney Island, said she represents all of her constituents and does not see the division between police and communities of color that has been the focus of much discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know there was a divide, honestly,&rdquo; Harris said when asked about representing both constituencies. &ldquo;I think we just have to remember the need of the district. We have to make sure there is no need in the district and I was able to champion that in my first six months of office.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris said addressing personal issues about her family continues to be the most challenging part of the campaign. The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/brooklyn-assemblywoman-owes-30g-back-taxes-article-1.2733474" target="_blank">reported</a> that Harris and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and there have been multiple reports detailing questions about the nonprofit she founded, the Coney Island Generation Gap, and its tax filings. Harris <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/46-ad-race-harris-releases-open-letter-explaining-financial-woes/" target="_blank">publicly responded</a> to the Daily News report and addressed the reasons behind her bankruptcy, including health issues for her and other family members.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I now have to explain what happened to me,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m okay with talking about me, but I don&rsquo;t want to take the time out to do so. Yes, I did deal with Chapter 13. But unfortunately, I had breast cancer and I had a really bad strain. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My husband got sick.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But you know, wait, don&rsquo;t worry about me,&rdquo; she continued, and asked rhetorically, &ldquo;What is it you need? What is it that you would like me to do?&rdquo; Harris said that she wants the focus of the campaign to be constituents&rsquo; needs, not her personal issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco recently released a <a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0a3cec43339acb94cfc3d7253/files/Cucco_70Point_Policy.pdf" target="_blank">70-Point Policy plan</a> which focuses on election reform, in addition to free SUNY and CUNY tuition for students with at least a B average and improving access to affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">If re-elected, Harris said she hopes to continue to fight for the large senior population in District 46 through affordable housing and social engagement programs. A bill authored by Harris aimed at helping residents in naturally occurring retirement homes qualify for state funding was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month.</p> <p>A flashpoint in the race is the involvement of outside Super PACs, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">which have been spending</a> on behalf of both Cucco and Harris. The issue was at the center of contentious exchanges during <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/09/1/ny1-online--fight-for-the-46th.html" target="_blank">a Thursday evening debate</a> on NY1's Inside City Hall, with the main issue at hand a state bill for an education tax credit that would mainly benefit donors to private schools. Harris' nonprofit also came up during the NY1 debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the 46th District Democratic primary will face Lucretia Regina-Potter, of the Republican Party, Mikhail Usher, of the Conservative Party, and Patrick Dwyer, of the Green Party, in the general election. In an overwhelmingly Democratic district, that candidate&rsquo;s party will be favored to win.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Assembly District 44<br /></strong>In State Assembly District 44, three Democrats fight for the seat being left vacant by Assemblymember James Brennan, who announced in May that after 32 years in office he will not seek re-election. Brennan announced his retirement and endorsed attorney Robert Carroll. Carroll, who identifies as a progressive and actively supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, dropped out of the District Leader race to pursue the open seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">The somewhat surprising vacancy and endorsement brought criticism from Troy Odendhal, a community developer and freelance journalist who is running for the seat in the Democratic primary. &ldquo;With such short notice on the vacancy of the seat, this was used as tactic by the democratic machine to overtly exclude potential candidates in the 44th Assembly District,&rdquo; reads a statement on Odendhal&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.troyodendhal2016.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Odendhal filed an objection with the Board of Elections against his challenger regarding the signatures Carroll collected to get on the ballot. <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/44-ad-race-odendhal-carroll-cross-swords-petition-challenges/" target="_blank">According to</a>&nbsp;Kings County Politics, Odendhal&rsquo;s campaign found errors with the petitions, including signatures of individuals who live out of the district, without addresses listed or names written in illegible handwriting. Carroll filed more than 7,300 signatures; Odendhal 870 (the required number to get on the ballot is 500).</p> <p dir="ltr">A third candidate, Rob Curry-Smithson, a history teacher who, like Carroll, campaigned for Bernie Sanders, describes himself not only as a &ldquo;Berniecrat&rdquo; but as &ldquo;an educator, not the establishment,&rdquo; on his campaign&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.robcurrysmithson.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Curry-Smithson channels Sanders&rsquo; rhetoric when talking about public education and healthcare. In an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/8/11/sanders-supporter-hopes-shake-assembly-race" target="_blank">interview with the Brooklyn Eagle</a>, he explained the reason behind his reform campaign, and referred to the process by which Brennan was attempting to choose replacement.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also was concerned that there seemed to be no competition, but a passing of the torch from someone who has been in office since I was two years old to a successor chosen by the party establishment,&rdquo; he wrote in an email to the Eagle. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Carroll not only has the backing of Brennan, but a long list of Democratic officials and organizations, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the Working Families Party, and the New York State United Teachers labor union.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to his campaign <a href="http://www.robertcarroll2016.com/issues" target="_blank">website</a>, if elected to office, Carroll hopes to improve ethics in Albany, institute paid sick leave as well as strengthen gun control laws.</p> <p dir="ltr">As expected, he leads in fundraising. Carroll has received $98,217 for his Assembly run as of July, according to his State Board of Elections <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/filer_contribution_details" target="_blank">filings</a>. Odendhal, who is self-funding his campaign, <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/EXPENSESA_county?ID_in=A21610&amp;date_From=&amp;date_to=&amp;OFFICE_in=ALL&amp;AMOUNT_From=&amp;AMOUNT_to=&amp;ZIP1=&amp;ZIP2=&amp;ORDERBY_IN=N" target="_blank">has spent</a> about $5446.00 on his campaign, as of late July filings, and Curry-Smithson has no fundraising recorded to date.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the District 44 Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Glenn Nocera, president of the Brooklyn Tea Party, who has also the Conservative Party line on the ballot, in the November general election. If successful in the Democratic primary, Carroll is set to have the Working Families Party ballot line in November.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Heading to Albany<br /></strong>Democrats have a large majority in the state Assembly and winners of the 44th and 46th District Democratic primaries are likely to be part of that majority in Albany when the State Legislature reconvenes in January. The results of November&rsquo;s general elections will determine control of the state Senate, which has been led by Republicans over most of the past several decades, but where the balance of power is almost evenly split.</p> <p dir="ltr">Turnout for the September 13 primaries is not expected to be high, especially given that it is the third primary date of this election year in New York, after the April presidential primary and June congressional primary. November is likely to be a different story, though, with the presidential race drawing more voters to the ballot box.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco, running in the 46th AD, said the over-saturation of the presidential campaign may inspire residents to get more involved this election cycle.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think that everything that&rsquo;s happening on the national level this year, you know with both parties, people, whether they like or don&rsquo;t like the national candidates running for president, they&rsquo;re hyper aware of the sense of local government and its importance,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected regarding the timing of Brennan's retirement announcement and how much time there was for candidates to get on the ballot.</p>