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/state-assembly 2017-10-22T10:14:13+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Powerful Assembly Post May Be Vacant Sooner Than Expected 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7046:powerful-assembly-chair-position-may-be-vacant-sooner-than-expected Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
New York Must Lead on Civil Rights 2017-06-28T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7040:new-york-must-lead-on-civil-rights Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ellia_at_a_school_nysednews.jpg" alt="ellia at a school nysednews" width="600" height="499" /></p> <p>(photo via @NYSEDNews)</p> <hr /> <p>The silence from D.C. is deafening.</p> <p>As The Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-administration-plans-to-minimize-civil-rights-efforts-in-agencies/2017/05/29/922fc1b2-39a7-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?utm_term=.9017a861e94a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently reported</a>, “the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices.”</p> <p>Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified that “this department is not going to be issuing decrees” on major civil rights issues – even though interpreting and enforcing civil rights law is, in fact, the role of the agency she leads.</p> <p>And Secretary DeVos’ agency then announced major changes that will dramatically weaken civil rights enforcement.</p> <p>This lack of national leadership is shameful. But if the federal government is going to devolve its historic role protecting civil rights to the states, New York is well-positioned to be a beacon for the nation at a time when our students need it the most.</p> <p>Building on significant work already underway by state leaders, there are three additional steps that New York should take.</p> <p>First, New York must modernize its laws to protect students who are the victims of discrimination. Due to a court decision in 2012, the state’s Division of Human Rights has only been allowed to enforce anti-discrimination protections in private schools – not in public K-12 schools or public colleges and universities. These anti-discrimination protections should be immediately extended to all students in all public schools.</p> <p>In fact, legislation has already been endorsed by Governor Cuomo and passed the Assembly. All that’s standing in the way of protecting students is a vote by the State Senate. The federal government’s abrogation of its duty to protect students should give new impetus to legislators from both parties to vote. When the Legislature returns in January, this bill deserves an immediate vote.</p> <p>But there’s more the state can do right now.</p> <p>Government also has a broader responsibility to set standards, investigate systemic disparities and enforce civil rights protections. The U.S. Department of Education could previously be counted on to issue guidelines specifying how federal laws and regulations should be interpreted, and then monitor and report on whether they are being properly implemented. Under President Obama, for example, guidelines were used to protect transgender students and to demand that colleges prevent and address sexual violence.</p> <p>Not anymore. The federal guidelines protecting transgender students have already been rescinded, and the Office of Civil Rights’ budget would be decimated under the current president’s proposal. Where the federal government is newly silent, New York should take up the mantle on behalf of students. The Attorney General’s Office and State Education Department have already shown clear leadership – for example, protecting immigrant students and transgender students and committing resources and staff to monitor school districts – as has the Governor’s Office on issues including college sexual assault.</p> <p>These three state offices should now work together to take additional steps to fill the federal vacuum – issuing or strengthening guidelines, conducting investigations, and publicly reporting on their findings. For example, disparities in access to college-prep coursework and the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline such as suspensions are two issues ripe for greater focus from a civil rights perspective. And LGBT students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, and victims of sexual violence are only a few of the groups that would benefit from a sustained civil rights presence.</p> <p>In addition, individuals and advocates have counted on the ability to file civil rights complaints with sympathetic U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Since those federal agencies now can’t be counted on to stand up for students, the state needs to bulk up its enforcement mechanisms.</p> <p>These important functions will no doubt require additional resources – an important reason that the state should plan now.</p> <p>Finally, data is often what makes it possible to identify patterns of systemic injustice. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights operates a rich source of data on educational inequities called the Civil Rights Data Collection. These data shine a light on critical issues like access to college-prep courses, student discipline measures, and school staffing.</p> <p>The State Education Department should commit to maintain this data collection (regardless of whether the federal government continues to require it), validate New York’s data so that it is accurate and actionable, and put it to use through standardized reporting and public tools. Acting now will send an important signal to school districts and provide time to request any additional resources needed to carry out these data integrity and dissemination functions.</p> <p>Because if the federal government is going to abandon the students most at risk, we should be able to count on New York stepping up in their defense.</p> <p>***<br />Ian Rosenblum is the executive director of <a href="https://newyork.edtrust.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Education Trust—New York</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ianrosenblum" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ianrosenblum</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/edtrustny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@EdTrustNY</a>.</p> <p>

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

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ellia_at_a_school_nysednews.jpg" alt="ellia at a school nysednews" width="600" height="499" /></p> <p>(photo via @NYSEDNews)</p> <hr /> <p>The silence from D.C. is deafening.</p> <p>As The Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-administration-plans-to-minimize-civil-rights-efforts-in-agencies/2017/05/29/922fc1b2-39a7-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?utm_term=.9017a861e94a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently reported</a>, “the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices.”</p> <p>Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified that “this department is not going to be issuing decrees” on major civil rights issues – even though interpreting and enforcing civil rights law is, in fact, the role of the agency she leads.</p> <p>And Secretary DeVos’ agency then announced major changes that will dramatically weaken civil rights enforcement.</p> <p>This lack of national leadership is shameful. But if the federal government is going to devolve its historic role protecting civil rights to the states, New York is well-positioned to be a beacon for the nation at a time when our students need it the most.</p> <p>Building on significant work already underway by state leaders, there are three additional steps that New York should take.</p> <p>First, New York must modernize its laws to protect students who are the victims of discrimination. Due to a court decision in 2012, the state’s Division of Human Rights has only been allowed to enforce anti-discrimination protections in private schools – not in public K-12 schools or public colleges and universities. These anti-discrimination protections should be immediately extended to all students in all public schools.</p> <p>In fact, legislation has already been endorsed by Governor Cuomo and passed the Assembly. All that’s standing in the way of protecting students is a vote by the State Senate. The federal government’s abrogation of its duty to protect students should give new impetus to legislators from both parties to vote. When the Legislature returns in January, this bill deserves an immediate vote.</p> <p>But there’s more the state can do right now.</p> <p>Government also has a broader responsibility to set standards, investigate systemic disparities and enforce civil rights protections. The U.S. Department of Education could previously be counted on to issue guidelines specifying how federal laws and regulations should be interpreted, and then monitor and report on whether they are being properly implemented. Under President Obama, for example, guidelines were used to protect transgender students and to demand that colleges prevent and address sexual violence.</p> <p>Not anymore. The federal guidelines protecting transgender students have already been rescinded, and the Office of Civil Rights’ budget would be decimated under the current president’s proposal. Where the federal government is newly silent, New York should take up the mantle on behalf of students. The Attorney General’s Office and State Education Department have already shown clear leadership – for example, protecting immigrant students and transgender students and committing resources and staff to monitor school districts – as has the Governor’s Office on issues including college sexual assault.</p> <p>These three state offices should now work together to take additional steps to fill the federal vacuum – issuing or strengthening guidelines, conducting investigations, and publicly reporting on their findings. For example, disparities in access to college-prep coursework and the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline such as suspensions are two issues ripe for greater focus from a civil rights perspective. And LGBT students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, and victims of sexual violence are only a few of the groups that would benefit from a sustained civil rights presence.</p> <p>In addition, individuals and advocates have counted on the ability to file civil rights complaints with sympathetic U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Since those federal agencies now can’t be counted on to stand up for students, the state needs to bulk up its enforcement mechanisms.</p> <p>These important functions will no doubt require additional resources – an important reason that the state should plan now.</p> <p>Finally, data is often what makes it possible to identify patterns of systemic injustice. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights operates a rich source of data on educational inequities called the Civil Rights Data Collection. These data shine a light on critical issues like access to college-prep courses, student discipline measures, and school staffing.</p> <p>The State Education Department should commit to maintain this data collection (regardless of whether the federal government continues to require it), validate New York’s data so that it is accurate and actionable, and put it to use through standardized reporting and public tools. Acting now will send an important signal to school districts and provide time to request any additional resources needed to carry out these data integrity and dissemination functions.</p> <p>Because if the federal government is going to abandon the students most at risk, we should be able to count on New York stepping up in their defense.</p> <p>***<br />Ian Rosenblum is the executive director of <a href="https://newyork.edtrust.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Education Trust—New York</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ianrosenblum" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ianrosenblum</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/edtrustny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@EdTrustNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Adjusting to Albany: Assemblymember Brian Barnwell 2017-05-11T18:40:11+00:00 2017-05-11T18:40:11+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6928:adjusting-to-albany-assemblymember-brian-barnwell Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/brianbarnwell-nyambb-2.jpg" alt="Brian Barnwell nyambb" width="600" height="463" /></p> <p>Assemblymember&nbsp;Brian Barnwell (photo via <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/Brian-Barnwell" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY State Assembly District 30</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>If Queens voters were looking for fresh face to represent them in Albany, they found it in Assemblymember Brian Barnwell.</p> <p>The 30-year-old attorney beat out nine-time incumbent Assemblymember Margaret Markey during the September Democratic primary <a href="http://qns.com/story/2016/09/13/breaking-incumbent-assemblywoman-markey-loses-democratic-primary-stunning-upset/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">with a shocking 63.8 percent of the vote</a>, and easily swept the general election against Republican Tony Nunziato. While Barnwell did well districtwide, many in Maspeth, Queens disapproved of Markey’s response to the city’s proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood, a hot button issue that drew weeks of heated protests.</p> <p>Barnwell is not new to the Albany area. After graduating Arizona State University, he obtained a law degree from Albany Law School. After working as a lawyer for several years, he worked as an aide in Queens City Council Member Costa Constantinides’ office. Now a lawmaker himself, Barnwell said he aims to find solutions for strengthening the middle class and those struggling to enter the middle class, and he has already put forward legislation related to affordable housing, senior issues, and workers’ safety. He spoke with Gotham Gazette in early May about New York’s affordable housing crisis, his first state budget experience, why it’s good to have millennials in the Legislature, and more.</p> <p><em><strong>Gotham Gazette (GG): What were your first few months like? Orientation?</strong></em></p> <p>Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (BB): “I thought everyone was all very helpful, the speaker’s staff were great, they’re all very nice and very helpful. The members themselves are still always saying, if you have any questions about anything, don’t be afraid to ask.</p> <p>Honestly, as an attorney, when you graduate law school and you go to court, you are kind of thrown to the wolves as well. So you get used to it. You ask questions, if you have them, and if you don’t, you figure it out.</p> <p>There was an orientation process, I think it was three days -- it feels like 80 years ago already. You get up there and they go over the basics. ‘This is who you go to if you have this issue.’ You know, ‘this is how the procedure how the Assembly works if you want to submit a bill.’ They go over the basics of bill drafting and indexing.</p> <p>Same thing, when you are in law school, you learn the law. Usually, there are a couple classes you can take here and there, but mostly, when you get to court, you don’t know the ins and outs of the everyday procedure.</p> <p>Same thing, obviously, when you are legislator, you know the things you want to change, but you don’t know how to change it. So you learn the procedure, the inherent procedure of the Assembly, and that’s what they teach you at orientation.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: How do you juggle the weekly commute? Any favorite restaurants yet?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “I actually went to law school up in Albany, so it’s not too different for me. When I was in law school, I’d take the Amtrak up, but now I drive up. I’m single, I don’t have any kids, so it’s not as bad for me as it would be for other members.</p> <p>Favorite restaurant? I don’t necessarily have any. There is actually a good barbecue place called Capital Q [Smokehouse] though, over on Ontario (Street). That’s a pretty good. Wings over Albany is another good place. The normal stuff out on Wolf Road, by the mall, you have Cheesecake Factory and Texas Roadhouse, all those places.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You are one of the younger members of the Assembly -- not the youngest, that’s Assemblymember James Skoufis -- but still among the younger members of the Assembly. How do you think it benefits government and the state to have younger lawmakers representing them?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Someone asked me this the other day, and what I say is it’s good to have a good mix. There are some members that have been there a long time and it’s good to have their voices and then there are some newer members. I think in the last 6-8 years, there’s been a lot of new members that have been in.</p> <p>Obviously, as time changes, there are new issues, that I’ve lived with myself. Like loans, for example, student loans. I’ve lived it, so I know all about it. Members who have been there 20 years, they may have loans too, but they haven’t had the same experience that I’ve had. So, it’s always good to have a good mixture of good backgrounds and ages, and it definitely comes into play. It’s definitely helpful to represent “</p> <p><em><strong>GG: In your district it’s particularly stark. You beat out a nine-term incumbent, and the uproar over the Maspeth homeless shelter certainly played a role. Housing issues are important to you. What are your thoughts on addressing homelessness, and more broadly, the city’s affordable housing shortage?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Actually, one of the major bills that I have deals with affordable housing. When they say it’s affordable, it’s laughable, it’s a headline -- it’s not affordable. One of the big reasons why, in my opinion, things are not affordable, is because the formula that determines quote-unquote what’s affordable, is they take the AMI, the average median income.</p> <p>Basically, it’s supposed to say these are the average incomes of people of the area where they’re building the project. However, New York City has a ridiculous formula that when they want to build in New York City, they want to build in the Bronx, they want to build in Woodside, they want to build in Harlem, they have to take the AMI of the entire city, plus Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties. We’ll use Harlem. The average income in Harlem is significantly lower than Westchester. When they build in Harlem and they are using the average incomes of Westchester and Putnam and Rockland County and Staten Island. The average income in Harlem is significantly lower than the AMI in Westchester.</p> <p>My bill, it’s sponsored by Senator [Michael] Gianaris in the Senate, and we have about 22 co-sponsors in the Assembly. When they want to build “affordable housing,” they have to use the AMI of only the zip code where the project is located. If they build in Harlem, only the average income levels of people in Harlem will be considered. Not Westchester, not Rockland County, not Putnam County -- that’s just stupidity. In my opinion, not only does it help people in the community, but it deals with the homeless issue. That’s another reason why I supported Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s home stability plan. Because it keeps people in their homes. It keeps people who are in danger of losing their homes -- it would give them a subsidy which would help keep them in their homes.</p> <p>If anyone says, ‘We shouldn’t take care the homeless,’ that’s idiocy. No. You’ve got to take care of everyone. You’ve got to take care of people in the state. If you are worried about the money part of it, then even more you should support Andrew Hevesi’s plan. Because the plan would save the city and the state millions of dollars. Instead of paying market rate -- they are charging $200 a night, to put someone in a hotel, like a paying customer -- instead of that you could spend a little bit of money and keep people in their homes.</p> <p>So, the ideas are there, but the laws are not passing.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: That leads me to my next question. Have you found it challenging to make your voice heard as a freshman legislator with such a large conference?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: There’s a big conference, a lot of people who have been there for a long time. And everyone’s been great, everyone’s been very nice, but there are people who have been there longer and have more pull -- that’s just the way it goes -- or their bills have been out for a long time. Some of these bills have been out there for 10 years and they are still trying to pass them. What I’ve done is draft the bills myself -- it’s one of the benefits of being a lawyer, I draft my own bills -- and then I just go speak to the members. You talk to them. Obviously the affordable housing issue is all over...I go over and ask them if they’ll sign on to the bill and about 20 members have signed on so far -- to the affordable housing one -- you’ve just got to put the legwork in.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any challenges? You just survived a very difficult budget process...</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “I think the biggest annoyance is when a constituent needs help and you want to help them but you have to go through the agencies. It’s always a traffic signal, or a stop sign, or a speed bump, where it’s needed, right? And the constituent wants it, but you can’t just snap your fingers and make it happen. You have to go through the agency and the agency has to approve it. That’s frustrating. Sometimes obviously it doesn’t work out because the agency says ‘No, you can’t have the traffic light here.’</p> <p>In regards to Albany, honestly 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. I understand that [Governor Andrew] Cuomo likes to have his budget on time. But the budget shouldn’t be on time just to be on time. The budget should be thought out and reasoned and debated, I mean that’s the reason we have government. While it does take a while, and this one was extra special with how long it took to get done, I don’t have a problem with that.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: As a lawyer, negotiating is your forte?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Exactly. It’s a negotiation. You’re not always going to get what you want, you negotiate, you come to an agreement, and live to fight another day.”</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">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a>]</p> <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/brianbarnwell-nyambb-2.jpg" alt="Brian Barnwell nyambb" width="600" height="463" /></p> <p>Assemblymember&nbsp;Brian Barnwell (photo via <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/Brian-Barnwell" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY State Assembly District 30</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>If Queens voters were looking for fresh face to represent them in Albany, they found it in Assemblymember Brian Barnwell.</p> <p>The 30-year-old attorney beat out nine-time incumbent Assemblymember Margaret Markey during the September Democratic primary <a href="http://qns.com/story/2016/09/13/breaking-incumbent-assemblywoman-markey-loses-democratic-primary-stunning-upset/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">with a shocking 63.8 percent of the vote</a>, and easily swept the general election against Republican Tony Nunziato. While Barnwell did well districtwide, many in Maspeth, Queens disapproved of Markey’s response to the city’s proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood, a hot button issue that drew weeks of heated protests.</p> <p>Barnwell is not new to the Albany area. After graduating Arizona State University, he obtained a law degree from Albany Law School. After working as a lawyer for several years, he worked as an aide in Queens City Council Member Costa Constantinides’ office. Now a lawmaker himself, Barnwell said he aims to find solutions for strengthening the middle class and those struggling to enter the middle class, and he has already put forward legislation related to affordable housing, senior issues, and workers’ safety. He spoke with Gotham Gazette in early May about New York’s affordable housing crisis, his first state budget experience, why it’s good to have millennials in the Legislature, and more.</p> <p><em><strong>Gotham Gazette (GG): What were your first few months like? Orientation?</strong></em></p> <p>Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (BB): “I thought everyone was all very helpful, the speaker’s staff were great, they’re all very nice and very helpful. The members themselves are still always saying, if you have any questions about anything, don’t be afraid to ask.</p> <p>Honestly, as an attorney, when you graduate law school and you go to court, you are kind of thrown to the wolves as well. So you get used to it. You ask questions, if you have them, and if you don’t, you figure it out.</p> <p>There was an orientation process, I think it was three days -- it feels like 80 years ago already. You get up there and they go over the basics. ‘This is who you go to if you have this issue.’ You know, ‘this is how the procedure how the Assembly works if you want to submit a bill.’ They go over the basics of bill drafting and indexing.</p> <p>Same thing, when you are in law school, you learn the law. Usually, there are a couple classes you can take here and there, but mostly, when you get to court, you don’t know the ins and outs of the everyday procedure.</p> <p>Same thing, obviously, when you are legislator, you know the things you want to change, but you don’t know how to change it. So you learn the procedure, the inherent procedure of the Assembly, and that’s what they teach you at orientation.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: How do you juggle the weekly commute? Any favorite restaurants yet?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “I actually went to law school up in Albany, so it’s not too different for me. When I was in law school, I’d take the Amtrak up, but now I drive up. I’m single, I don’t have any kids, so it’s not as bad for me as it would be for other members.</p> <p>Favorite restaurant? I don’t necessarily have any. There is actually a good barbecue place called Capital Q [Smokehouse] though, over on Ontario (Street). That’s a pretty good. Wings over Albany is another good place. The normal stuff out on Wolf Road, by the mall, you have Cheesecake Factory and Texas Roadhouse, all those places.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You are one of the younger members of the Assembly -- not the youngest, that’s Assemblymember James Skoufis -- but still among the younger members of the Assembly. How do you think it benefits government and the state to have younger lawmakers representing them?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Someone asked me this the other day, and what I say is it’s good to have a good mix. There are some members that have been there a long time and it’s good to have their voices and then there are some newer members. I think in the last 6-8 years, there’s been a lot of new members that have been in.</p> <p>Obviously, as time changes, there are new issues, that I’ve lived with myself. Like loans, for example, student loans. I’ve lived it, so I know all about it. Members who have been there 20 years, they may have loans too, but they haven’t had the same experience that I’ve had. So, it’s always good to have a good mixture of good backgrounds and ages, and it definitely comes into play. It’s definitely helpful to represent “</p> <p><em><strong>GG: In your district it’s particularly stark. You beat out a nine-term incumbent, and the uproar over the Maspeth homeless shelter certainly played a role. Housing issues are important to you. What are your thoughts on addressing homelessness, and more broadly, the city’s affordable housing shortage?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Actually, one of the major bills that I have deals with affordable housing. When they say it’s affordable, it’s laughable, it’s a headline -- it’s not affordable. One of the big reasons why, in my opinion, things are not affordable, is because the formula that determines quote-unquote what’s affordable, is they take the AMI, the average median income.</p> <p>Basically, it’s supposed to say these are the average incomes of people of the area where they’re building the project. However, New York City has a ridiculous formula that when they want to build in New York City, they want to build in the Bronx, they want to build in Woodside, they want to build in Harlem, they have to take the AMI of the entire city, plus Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties. We’ll use Harlem. The average income in Harlem is significantly lower than Westchester. When they build in Harlem and they are using the average incomes of Westchester and Putnam and Rockland County and Staten Island. The average income in Harlem is significantly lower than the AMI in Westchester.</p> <p>My bill, it’s sponsored by Senator [Michael] Gianaris in the Senate, and we have about 22 co-sponsors in the Assembly. When they want to build “affordable housing,” they have to use the AMI of only the zip code where the project is located. If they build in Harlem, only the average income levels of people in Harlem will be considered. Not Westchester, not Rockland County, not Putnam County -- that’s just stupidity. In my opinion, not only does it help people in the community, but it deals with the homeless issue. That’s another reason why I supported Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s home stability plan. Because it keeps people in their homes. It keeps people who are in danger of losing their homes -- it would give them a subsidy which would help keep them in their homes.</p> <p>If anyone says, ‘We shouldn’t take care the homeless,’ that’s idiocy. No. You’ve got to take care of everyone. You’ve got to take care of people in the state. If you are worried about the money part of it, then even more you should support Andrew Hevesi’s plan. Because the plan would save the city and the state millions of dollars. Instead of paying market rate -- they are charging $200 a night, to put someone in a hotel, like a paying customer -- instead of that you could spend a little bit of money and keep people in their homes.</p> <p>So, the ideas are there, but the laws are not passing.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: That leads me to my next question. Have you found it challenging to make your voice heard as a freshman legislator with such a large conference?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: There’s a big conference, a lot of people who have been there for a long time. And everyone’s been great, everyone’s been very nice, but there are people who have been there longer and have more pull -- that’s just the way it goes -- or their bills have been out for a long time. Some of these bills have been out there for 10 years and they are still trying to pass them. What I’ve done is draft the bills myself -- it’s one of the benefits of being a lawyer, I draft my own bills -- and then I just go speak to the members. You talk to them. Obviously the affordable housing issue is all over...I go over and ask them if they’ll sign on to the bill and about 20 members have signed on so far -- to the affordable housing one -- you’ve just got to put the legwork in.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any challenges? You just survived a very difficult budget process...</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “I think the biggest annoyance is when a constituent needs help and you want to help them but you have to go through the agencies. It’s always a traffic signal, or a stop sign, or a speed bump, where it’s needed, right? And the constituent wants it, but you can’t just snap your fingers and make it happen. You have to go through the agency and the agency has to approve it. That’s frustrating. Sometimes obviously it doesn’t work out because the agency says ‘No, you can’t have the traffic light here.’</p> <p>In regards to Albany, honestly 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. I understand that [Governor Andrew] Cuomo likes to have his budget on time. But the budget shouldn’t be on time just to be on time. The budget should be thought out and reasoned and debated, I mean that’s the reason we have government. While it does take a while, and this one was extra special with how long it took to get done, I don’t have a problem with that.”</p> <p><em><strong>GG: As a lawyer, negotiating is your forte?</strong></em></p> <p>BB: “Exactly. It’s a negotiation. You’re not always going to get what you want, you negotiate, you come to an agreement, and live to fight another day.”</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">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a>]</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Adjusting to Albany: Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa 2017-05-11T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6907:adjusting-to-albany-assemblymember-carmen-de-la-rosa Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/cndelarosa-5.jpg" alt="cndelarosa 5" width="600" height="588" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa (photo via <a href="https://twitter.com/CnDelarosa" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CnDelarosa</a>)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Born in the Dominican Republic, Carmen De La Rosa immigrated as a child to Inwood, in upper Manhattan, where she was raised and still lives, now with her fiance and daughter. She launched her legislative career in 2007, working for Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell on the Upper West Side. She later became Democratic female district leader for the 72nd Assembly District and chief of staff to City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the backing of her former boss and Rodriguez’s mentor, then-State Senator Adriano Espaillat, the 30-year-old De La Rosa took on incumbent Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a longtime rival of Espaillat. During the campaign, she defined herself as a feminist who understands the struggles of working families and immigrants, someone who could break barriers for the upper Manhattan district, which has long been dominated by male leadership. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now in office, De La Rosa told Gotham Gazette in February that she is looking forward to making a difference in the community she has lived in her whole life, especially given the ascendance of an anti-immigrant Trump administration in Washington, D.C.</span></p> <p><em><b>Gotham Gazette (GG): What was your first few weeks as a state legislator like? How was the orientation? </b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carmen De La Rosa (CDLR): It’s been obviously very interesting — and busy — &nbsp;getting to know the budget process and all the components of the budget and how to navigate our communities within that process. Also, learning the basic 101 of the legislative process, in addition to also getting our offices up and running for constituent services. So it definitely feels like longer than a month. But I definitely feel like everyone here is very helpful. There are a lot of people who can assist you with technical issues.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The training was very interesting. We got to meet the incoming class of members on the Assembly side and majority side. It was wonderful because you are able to meet other members from all different part of the state who are coming in with different perspectives, but we have one thing in common, which is we are all new here. We’ve sort of created a bond of helping each other out, because we have similar questions about like where a particular hearing room is, or how to get over to chamber quickly. So it’s been really high pace. 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.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: How is the commute? Where do you stay? Any favorite restaurants yet?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>I’ve been taking the train. I actually am taking the train from the Yonkers stop. So I often either have my husband drop me off and I’ll come up. It’s only two hours and 15 minutes depending on how the rail is going.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s really good to come on the train; you get a lot done, a lot of reading and catching up. I really like the train ride actually because you are able to disconnect and sort of just get your footing in before you even come up to Albany. So you do all the reading on what bills are coming up, on committees and all of that. And when I’m coming back into my district work, so what community events are happening and things like that.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I haven’t found a favorite restaurant yet. We’ve been really busy this session and we had a few late nights with some votes. So I haven’t had much time to go out and explore. I am usually eating in the members lounge or in the cafeteria or the concourse, so I definitely have goals for later on in the session to go out and find a good restaurant.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: As a mother of a 2-year-old, is it hard to juggle the demands of parenthood and the job?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Definitely, I haven’t been away from her since she was born and I’ve been really spoiled by being able to work in the city and come home to her every night. But I have a really good support system. My parents have both been very helpful, and my husband. And my mom has seven sisters so they’re great aunts, they are always coming over, pitching in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My daughter is at the age that she’s in daycare during the day, and then she comes home and we Facetime. Then she asks me all these questions and I ask her about her day. She’s now at a point where she doesn’t fully understand what mommy is doing. Actually, the other day I asked her, I said, ‘Bye, mommy’s going to Albany!’ She said, ‘You’re going to work mommy!’ and I said ‘Do you know what mommy does at work?’ and she says, ‘Talk to a lot of people!’ So she doesn’t really understand everything. But she understands that I’m up in Albany and I feel lucky because she’s been adjusting very well.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: You enter state government under such a strange climate with President Donald Trump’s administration moving forward with its anti-immigrant agenda. Has that shifted your priorities for the coming year?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Absolutely. I think that actually contributed to the fact that in my brain, it feels longer than a month. Because very soon after I came to Albany, Trump was inaugurated and since then, especially in our district, it’s been protest after protest, demonstration after demonstration.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a immigrant woman here at the state Legislature, we actually in the Assembly have been able to pass bills about protecting immigrant communities against registries....we did a ton of criminal justice reform bills. So for me, I feel like I’m in the front seat of something that is so important for the protection of immigrant communities and communities of color throughout the state. I just feel privileged and honored to have a seat at that table and be able to actually take these votes that are having significant impact in our communities and understanding the dynamics of the [Republican-controlled] Senate, and really pushing on this, so that some of those things can be adopted by the Legislature.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Being able to be in the [Democratic] Assembly Majority, and actually be able push for these things is really important. I think now for us to have a voice in what’s happening nationally and we show our constituents that on a state level there are some protections that can be put in place.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: As a freshman legislator, do you feel like you have gotten floor time where you really got to make your voice heard?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Yes, I did! The first week we came in and voted on a ton of bills about contraception and women’s rights. They were health bills. So those bills were really important to me as a woman, as a woman who is pro-choice, and especially with what is happening on a national level with women and Planned Parenthood. In addition, I did have floor time last week -- which was my first time speaking on the floor -- about the Dream Act, and the Assembly was able to pass the Dream Act.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I spoke about my experiences being an immigrant woman, coming to the country as a child, and knowing that education -- and the opportunity to be educated -- has certainly made a difference in my life. And what we hope we could lead for our children and the children that are coming from other countries around the world and may not have that opportunity to follow the American dream.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I was very excited to be able to speak up on that. And yesterday I spoke up about the ‘Raise the Age’ conversation and the importance of doing that in New York State.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: Any surprises? Disappointments?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>No disappointments yet. I am still coming with a new person’s -- I’m not burnt out yet -- so I’m really coming with a fresh, hope perspective which I hope doesn’t die. But I have been very inspired with the passion that I see coming from all over the state on some of these issues. It doesn’t matter if you come from upstate or downstate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A lot of the members of the chamber have really taken leadership roles when it comes to speaking out about women’s rights, immigrant rights, and that has really been a pleasant surprise for me here.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>[Read more from our series,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a><span>]</span></p> <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/cndelarosa-5.jpg" alt="cndelarosa 5" width="600" height="588" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa (photo via <a href="https://twitter.com/CnDelarosa" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CnDelarosa</a>)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Born in the Dominican Republic, Carmen De La Rosa immigrated as a child to Inwood, in upper Manhattan, where she was raised and still lives, now with her fiance and daughter. She launched her legislative career in 2007, working for Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell on the Upper West Side. She later became Democratic female district leader for the 72nd Assembly District and chief of staff to City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the backing of her former boss and Rodriguez’s mentor, then-State Senator Adriano Espaillat, the 30-year-old De La Rosa took on incumbent Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a longtime rival of Espaillat. During the campaign, she defined herself as a feminist who understands the struggles of working families and immigrants, someone who could break barriers for the upper Manhattan district, which has long been dominated by male leadership. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now in office, De La Rosa told Gotham Gazette in February that she is looking forward to making a difference in the community she has lived in her whole life, especially given the ascendance of an anti-immigrant Trump administration in Washington, D.C.</span></p> <p><em><b>Gotham Gazette (GG): What was your first few weeks as a state legislator like? How was the orientation? </b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carmen De La Rosa (CDLR): It’s been obviously very interesting — and busy — &nbsp;getting to know the budget process and all the components of the budget and how to navigate our communities within that process. Also, learning the basic 101 of the legislative process, in addition to also getting our offices up and running for constituent services. So it definitely feels like longer than a month. But I definitely feel like everyone here is very helpful. There are a lot of people who can assist you with technical issues.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The training was very interesting. We got to meet the incoming class of members on the Assembly side and majority side. It was wonderful because you are able to meet other members from all different part of the state who are coming in with different perspectives, but we have one thing in common, which is we are all new here. We’ve sort of created a bond of helping each other out, because we have similar questions about like where a particular hearing room is, or how to get over to chamber quickly. So it’s been really high pace. 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.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: How is the commute? Where do you stay? Any favorite restaurants yet?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>I’ve been taking the train. I actually am taking the train from the Yonkers stop. So I often either have my husband drop me off and I’ll come up. It’s only two hours and 15 minutes depending on how the rail is going.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s really good to come on the train; you get a lot done, a lot of reading and catching up. I really like the train ride actually because you are able to disconnect and sort of just get your footing in before you even come up to Albany. So you do all the reading on what bills are coming up, on committees and all of that. And when I’m coming back into my district work, so what community events are happening and things like that.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I haven’t found a favorite restaurant yet. We’ve been really busy this session and we had a few late nights with some votes. So I haven’t had much time to go out and explore. I am usually eating in the members lounge or in the cafeteria or the concourse, so I definitely have goals for later on in the session to go out and find a good restaurant.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: As a mother of a 2-year-old, is it hard to juggle the demands of parenthood and the job?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Definitely, I haven’t been away from her since she was born and I’ve been really spoiled by being able to work in the city and come home to her every night. But I have a really good support system. My parents have both been very helpful, and my husband. And my mom has seven sisters so they’re great aunts, they are always coming over, pitching in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My daughter is at the age that she’s in daycare during the day, and then she comes home and we Facetime. Then she asks me all these questions and I ask her about her day. She’s now at a point where she doesn’t fully understand what mommy is doing. Actually, the other day I asked her, I said, ‘Bye, mommy’s going to Albany!’ She said, ‘You’re going to work mommy!’ and I said ‘Do you know what mommy does at work?’ and she says, ‘Talk to a lot of people!’ So she doesn’t really understand everything. But she understands that I’m up in Albany and I feel lucky because she’s been adjusting very well.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: You enter state government under such a strange climate with President Donald Trump’s administration moving forward with its anti-immigrant agenda. Has that shifted your priorities for the coming year?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Absolutely. I think that actually contributed to the fact that in my brain, it feels longer than a month. Because very soon after I came to Albany, Trump was inaugurated and since then, especially in our district, it’s been protest after protest, demonstration after demonstration.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a immigrant woman here at the state Legislature, we actually in the Assembly have been able to pass bills about protecting immigrant communities against registries....we did a ton of criminal justice reform bills. So for me, I feel like I’m in the front seat of something that is so important for the protection of immigrant communities and communities of color throughout the state. I just feel privileged and honored to have a seat at that table and be able to actually take these votes that are having significant impact in our communities and understanding the dynamics of the [Republican-controlled] Senate, and really pushing on this, so that some of those things can be adopted by the Legislature.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Being able to be in the [Democratic] Assembly Majority, and actually be able push for these things is really important. I think now for us to have a voice in what’s happening nationally and we show our constituents that on a state level there are some protections that can be put in place.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: As a freshman legislator, do you feel like you have gotten floor time where you really got to make your voice heard?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>Yes, I did! The first week we came in and voted on a ton of bills about contraception and women’s rights. They were health bills. So those bills were really important to me as a woman, as a woman who is pro-choice, and especially with what is happening on a national level with women and Planned Parenthood. In addition, I did have floor time last week -- which was my first time speaking on the floor -- about the Dream Act, and the Assembly was able to pass the Dream Act.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I spoke about my experiences being an immigrant woman, coming to the country as a child, and knowing that education -- and the opportunity to be educated -- has certainly made a difference in my life. And what we hope we could lead for our children and the children that are coming from other countries around the world and may not have that opportunity to follow the American dream.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I was very excited to be able to speak up on that. And yesterday I spoke up about the ‘Raise the Age’ conversation and the importance of doing that in New York State.</span></p> <p><em><b>GG: Any surprises? Disappointments?</b></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CDLR: </span>No disappointments yet. I am still coming with a new person’s -- I’m not burnt out yet -- so I’m really coming with a fresh, hope perspective which I hope doesn’t die. But I have been very inspired with the passion that I see coming from all over the state on some of these issues. It doesn’t matter if you come from upstate or downstate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A lot of the members of the chamber have really taken leadership roles when it comes to speaking out about women’s rights, immigrant rights, and that has really been a pleasant surprise for me here.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>[Read more from our series,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a><span>]</span></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Adjusting to Albany: Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6808:adjusting-to-albany-assemblymember-yuh-line-niou Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/yuhlineniou2.jpg" alt="yuhlineniou2" height="474" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (photo via @yuhline)</p> <hr /> <p>Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblymember for the 65th District in Lower Manhattan, has a tough task. The new Assembly member takes the seat held by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for 40 years. Niou won the September 2016 Democratic primary -- backed by the Working Families Party -- and November general election after losing a prior special election to Alice Cancel, who had been the choice of the Silver machine.</p> <p>Now, she must navigate growing into her role as an elected official, managing constituent services in a district that once got special attention given Silver’s powerful perch, and making her mark on Albany’s crowded landscape.</p> <p>In February, Nious spoke with Gotham Gazette about the challenges of meeting the outsized expectations of her district, getting to know her new colleagues and figuring out how to be heard in a notoriously dysfunctional state government. She also shared some of the less glamorous aspects of being a new legislator from New York City, such as taking the train to and from Albany and ordering pizza to her hotel.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: How was your first month as a state legislator? What was orientation like?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: The first month has been pretty hectic. It’s been exciting in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot to take in. It’s a pretty steep learning curve, because everybody else seems to know what’s going on a lot more than I do. It’s been also really exciting to get to know a lot of my colleagues. My cohort -- it’s very exciting for us to be together, because we’re all freshmen together, and there’s about 11 of us on the Dems side. It’s been kind of fun, that part of it...There’s a lot of folks that just listening to them talk and understanding some of the issues that they are fighting for, I admire them.</p> <p><strong><em>GG: What’s your commute like? Where do you stay? Favorite restaurants? Tell us about your day-to-day.</em></strong></p> <p>YLN: Actually, because there’s been so many events going on in-district, I commute Sunday night and I take the latest train usually. Sometimes it’s 9 p.m. and sometimes 11 p.m. I take the Penn Station Amtrak, and usually when I get [to Albany] it’s around midnight, or if I got the 11 o’clock, it’s like 2:30 a.m. But I try to go to as many district events as possible before I leave; because we’re up here, we don’t to get to be in the district as much as we would like and people want to see me out there. But because of the schedule and how busy it is is [in Albany] -- It’s almost budget season, it’s actually the last day for budget letters -- everything is really hectic.</p> <p>I’m staying at the Holiday Inn Express — very fancy! — I actually have not gone out to eat at all really. Sometimes in the dead of night, when we finally get done with everything, it’s like 11 p.m., and everything’s closed. I go back to the Holiday Inn, and then I order pizza.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Have you had much Assembly floor time? Do you speak up for your constituents?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: It’s really great, because they help us by putting things into packages and days. So there hasn’t been much difficulty with drafting policy or the legislative schedule yet. I think that things get full and really crazy fast right after the budget is done — for the policy side.</p> <p>Right now, we’ve done a lot on women’s rights and I was able to speak up on reproductive health. We had a bunch of resolutions heard. Mine was the Lunar New Year resolution, and it was really great, because over 80 legislators signed on to it. We also had the immigrant rights debate, a lot of criminal justice reform debates. So those were really impactful right now, because of what’s going on on a federal level.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You are coming in during a strange climate given what’s going on nationally. How has the Trump administration shaped your priorities?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: That a really big question. One of the things that I’m lucky enough to be a part of, is being part of ‘the people’s budget,’ I’m one of the legislators who is helping to put it together — and that’s the document that the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Puerto Rican Caucus put together. It’s really exciting. We get to talk a lot about the things I just mentioned, with criminal justice reform, and immigrant rights and women's rights. And we get to talk a lot about what we, as a caucus, would like to focus on. The other budgets don’t necessarily make those things a priority, so at least it’s a document for folks who believe in those things to have a voice. It’s a very exciting project and I’m really honored to be a part of it.</p> <p>One of the pieces -- because of the weird climate -- one of the things I got to speak up on, was stopping data registries, and I think that’s really important because I know the city is going through some stuff with the [IDNYC (municipal identification card)] program. We are all trying do our best to look at what’s happening, and then do really good preparation to be a good buffer and good representation of our district.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You get this question a lot, but, Asian-Americans have been underrepresented in public office in New York State for so long. As the first Asian-American state legislator representing Manhattan, is there a lot of pressure to be a voice for an entire ethnic group?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: I worked for [Assemblymember] Ron [Kim] last year and he was the only Asian-American on the entire state level — I bet he felt that! Right now, there’s both me and him, and it’s nice. But I also know that there are many of our colleagues that have very large Asian-American populations, and many of them have been very good at representing those communities in those districts as well. But yes, of course, a lot of people are going to come to our office with a lot of language-access needs, and immigration issues, and things like that. Just very basic things, like how to use mail. These are things Ron and I had to deal with that a lot at his office, because he was the only Asian-American elected on the entire state level, so many times a lot of those issues came to us.</p> <p>I don’t get tired of the question, by the way. I think it’s sad that we have to keep asking the question more than anything. Because, I think that you are right, absolutely, we are the most underrepresented minority in New York State and the most rapidly growing as well in our state. We are at least 10 percent of the population in our state and we definitely don’t even have 1 percent of representation on a state level. That’s shocking, for sure. I think it's upsetting in the sense that, ‘Oh, I can’t believe I am the first on a state level,’ because I didn’t think that that was still a thing, but unfortunately, it is. I think it's very important to represent my whole district, but it is also a community that grew together, and everybody is supportive of one another. That’s why it’s such an incredible district.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any other surprising moments or takeaways from the past month and a half?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: There hasn’t been anything completely unexpected, but I definitely have just been just moved by how supportive everyone is. Especially with my office, the speaker [Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie] has been very, very good with my district and understanding the difficulty that I am under.</p> <p>Given the history of this office, I think that we know that this district was serviced like no other district, because there were a lot of resources that, having the former speaker represent the district, that the district would have. Certain expectations have been set by the seat, which means I have to provide a very high level of constituent service and representation, but with only a fraction of the budget.</p> <p>I was very moved and surprised by how much the Speaker understands that, and by how supportive the staff has been, on [The] Ways and Means [Committee], and the different committees, how they’ve been for our district in general, because it's got to be a drastic change.</p> <p>I think it's my responsibility to the district to ensure that I’m super responsive, that we are able to get to folks’ needs very quickly and efficiently, because it's crucial. 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. I’m hoping to make sure we are 100 percent accessible, that we are always transparent, and my priority is always constituents first.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-align: center;">[Read more from our series,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou" target="_blank" style="text-align: center;">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a><span style="text-align: center;">]</span></p> <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/yuhlineniou2.jpg" alt="yuhlineniou2" height="474" width="600" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (photo via @yuhline)</p> <hr /> <p>Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblymember for the 65th District in Lower Manhattan, has a tough task. The new Assembly member takes the seat held by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for 40 years. Niou won the September 2016 Democratic primary -- backed by the Working Families Party -- and November general election after losing a prior special election to Alice Cancel, who had been the choice of the Silver machine.</p> <p>Now, she must navigate growing into her role as an elected official, managing constituent services in a district that once got special attention given Silver’s powerful perch, and making her mark on Albany’s crowded landscape.</p> <p>In February, Nious spoke with Gotham Gazette about the challenges of meeting the outsized expectations of her district, getting to know her new colleagues and figuring out how to be heard in a notoriously dysfunctional state government. She also shared some of the less glamorous aspects of being a new legislator from New York City, such as taking the train to and from Albany and ordering pizza to her hotel.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: How was your first month as a state legislator? What was orientation like?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: The first month has been pretty hectic. It’s been exciting in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot to take in. It’s a pretty steep learning curve, because everybody else seems to know what’s going on a lot more than I do. It’s been also really exciting to get to know a lot of my colleagues. My cohort -- it’s very exciting for us to be together, because we’re all freshmen together, and there’s about 11 of us on the Dems side. It’s been kind of fun, that part of it...There’s a lot of folks that just listening to them talk and understanding some of the issues that they are fighting for, I admire them.</p> <p><strong><em>GG: What’s your commute like? Where do you stay? Favorite restaurants? Tell us about your day-to-day.</em></strong></p> <p>YLN: Actually, because there’s been so many events going on in-district, I commute Sunday night and I take the latest train usually. Sometimes it’s 9 p.m. and sometimes 11 p.m. I take the Penn Station Amtrak, and usually when I get [to Albany] it’s around midnight, or if I got the 11 o’clock, it’s like 2:30 a.m. But I try to go to as many district events as possible before I leave; because we’re up here, we don’t to get to be in the district as much as we would like and people want to see me out there. But because of the schedule and how busy it is is [in Albany] -- It’s almost budget season, it’s actually the last day for budget letters -- everything is really hectic.</p> <p>I’m staying at the Holiday Inn Express — very fancy! — I actually have not gone out to eat at all really. Sometimes in the dead of night, when we finally get done with everything, it’s like 11 p.m., and everything’s closed. I go back to the Holiday Inn, and then I order pizza.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Have you had much Assembly floor time? Do you speak up for your constituents?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: It’s really great, because they help us by putting things into packages and days. So there hasn’t been much difficulty with drafting policy or the legislative schedule yet. I think that things get full and really crazy fast right after the budget is done — for the policy side.</p> <p>Right now, we’ve done a lot on women’s rights and I was able to speak up on reproductive health. We had a bunch of resolutions heard. Mine was the Lunar New Year resolution, and it was really great, because over 80 legislators signed on to it. We also had the immigrant rights debate, a lot of criminal justice reform debates. So those were really impactful right now, because of what’s going on on a federal level.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You are coming in during a strange climate given what’s going on nationally. How has the Trump administration shaped your priorities?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: That a really big question. One of the things that I’m lucky enough to be a part of, is being part of ‘the people’s budget,’ I’m one of the legislators who is helping to put it together — and that’s the document that the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Puerto Rican Caucus put together. It’s really exciting. We get to talk a lot about the things I just mentioned, with criminal justice reform, and immigrant rights and women's rights. And we get to talk a lot about what we, as a caucus, would like to focus on. The other budgets don’t necessarily make those things a priority, so at least it’s a document for folks who believe in those things to have a voice. It’s a very exciting project and I’m really honored to be a part of it.</p> <p>One of the pieces -- because of the weird climate -- one of the things I got to speak up on, was stopping data registries, and I think that’s really important because I know the city is going through some stuff with the [IDNYC (municipal identification card)] program. We are all trying do our best to look at what’s happening, and then do really good preparation to be a good buffer and good representation of our district.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: You get this question a lot, but, Asian-Americans have been underrepresented in public office in New York State for so long. As the first Asian-American state legislator representing Manhattan, is there a lot of pressure to be a voice for an entire ethnic group?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: I worked for [Assemblymember] Ron [Kim] last year and he was the only Asian-American on the entire state level — I bet he felt that! Right now, there’s both me and him, and it’s nice. But I also know that there are many of our colleagues that have very large Asian-American populations, and many of them have been very good at representing those communities in those districts as well. But yes, of course, a lot of people are going to come to our office with a lot of language-access needs, and immigration issues, and things like that. Just very basic things, like how to use mail. These are things Ron and I had to deal with that a lot at his office, because he was the only Asian-American elected on the entire state level, so many times a lot of those issues came to us.</p> <p>I don’t get tired of the question, by the way. I think it’s sad that we have to keep asking the question more than anything. Because, I think that you are right, absolutely, we are the most underrepresented minority in New York State and the most rapidly growing as well in our state. We are at least 10 percent of the population in our state and we definitely don’t even have 1 percent of representation on a state level. That’s shocking, for sure. I think it's upsetting in the sense that, ‘Oh, I can’t believe I am the first on a state level,’ because I didn’t think that that was still a thing, but unfortunately, it is. I think it's very important to represent my whole district, but it is also a community that grew together, and everybody is supportive of one another. That’s why it’s such an incredible district.</p> <p><em><strong>GG: Any other surprising moments or takeaways from the past month and a half?</strong></em></p> <p>YLN: There hasn’t been anything completely unexpected, but I definitely have just been just moved by how supportive everyone is. Especially with my office, the speaker [Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie] has been very, very good with my district and understanding the difficulty that I am under.</p> <p>Given the history of this office, I think that we know that this district was serviced like no other district, because there were a lot of resources that, having the former speaker represent the district, that the district would have. Certain expectations have been set by the seat, which means I have to provide a very high level of constituent service and representation, but with only a fraction of the budget.</p> <p>I was very moved and surprised by how much the Speaker understands that, and by how supportive the staff has been, on [The] Ways and Means [Committee], and the different committees, how they’ve been for our district in general, because it's got to be a drastic change.</p> <p>I think it's my responsibility to the district to ensure that I’m super responsive, that we are able to get to folks’ needs very quickly and efficiently, because it's crucial. 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. I’m hoping to make sure we are 100 percent accessible, that we are always transparent, and my priority is always constituents first.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-align: center;">[Read more from our series,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6818-adjusting-to-albany-meet-nyc-s-new-class-of-state-legislators#yuhlineniou" target="_blank" style="text-align: center;">Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators</a><span style="text-align: center;">]</span></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</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>
Assembly Members Propose Changes to Cuomo's Free-Tuition Plan 2017-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6784:assembly-members-propose-changes-to-cuomo-s-free-tuition-plan Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/skoufis_assembly.jpg" alt="skoufis assembly" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p>Assemblymember James Skouis, right (photo: @JamesSkoufis)</p> <hr /> <p>More than 30 members of the state Assembly have signed a budget letter to their Speaker, Carl Heastie, outlining an alternative version of the free college tuition proposal being championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that they want Heastie to adopt for the chamber.</p> <p>The Assembly members, all Democrats, aim to make Cuomo’s plan more inclusive of the middle class and to ease proposed aid restrictions for the students at New York public universities who stand to benefit from the program.</p> <p>The letter, drafted by Assemblymember James Skoufis of Orange and Rockland Counties, recommends three changes to the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship, which Cuomo unveiled in January with the help of former presidential candidate and liberal icon Senator Bernie Sanders. It was the first and anchor proposal of Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State agenda.</p> <p>Cuomo’s plan guarantees free tuition at city and state colleges for students from households earning up to $125,000 per year, and is designed to make college more accessible and improve graduation rates in New York State. While many low-income students are already eligible for significant state aid to afford college, Cuomo said his plan was to ensure many middle class students could also attend college tuition-free.</p> <p>However, the governor’s plan has been criticized by college accessibility advocates for its restrictive four-year graduation requirements and “last-dollar” provision that supplements tuition costs only after Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Pell grants have been expended. Currently, students who are eligible for full tuition aid are not compelled to use Pell funds for tuition, rather they can be designated for books, transportation, and other college-related expenses. Many are mindful that tuition is not the only college cost and want to see the governor take that into account.</p> <p>The Assembly members’ letter asks Speaker Heastie to include in the Assembly’s one-house budget a tuition plan that rejects the "last-dollar" component of the Excelsior Scholarship as well as the 15-credit per semester requirement. With Democrats strongly in control of the chamber, they have a solid chance to see their proposal included in the one-house plan -- which, along with the Senate’s budget proposal, is expected to be released later this month. The Senate is narrowly controlled by Republicans, who have been warm to Cuomo’s tuition-free idea, but expressed concerns about how it will be paid for.</p> <p>The Assembly letter also recommends the scholarship be applied to students from households earning up to $175,000 per year.</p> <p>“SUNY and CUNY campuses host an undergraduate population that totals nearly 650,000 students,” the letter states. “Additionally, over 160,000 students are enrolled in Open SUNY and earning online credits towards a degree. Yet, the Excelsior Program is projected to benefit only 32,000 students once fully implemented in fiscal year 2019-20. This amounts to less than 5% of the entire undergraduate population.”</p> <p>Skoufis has proposed a similar “tuition-free New York” <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/a5098/amendment/a" target="_blank">bill</a>, which has been introduced in the Assembly every year since 2014, but the legislation never made it past committee. He says many middle class families are excluded under the current Cuomo proposal.</p> <p>The Assembly member cited the example of a household with two full-time teachers, each of them earning an average of $77,000 per year. However, he noted, if they live in particular zip codes, they may face high living expenses or exorbitant property taxes. “If you have two teachers in your household, by any standard, that’s a middle class household. Yet, they are going to fall above this threshold and get zero help,” Skoufis told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>He also criticized Cuomo’s “punitive” provision that would drop students from the program if their course load fell below 15 credits at any point. According to Skoufis’ bill, students would be required to graduate a two-year college within three years or a four-year college within five years to remain in the program -- it is the equivalent of 12 credits per semester. “There needs to be some flexibility here,” he said.</p> <p>The proposed changes echo some of the criticisms of the Excelsior Scholarship raised during last month’s joint legislative budget hearing on higher education. Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Assembly higher education committee, said the committee intends to put forward its own proposal, one that addresses all aspects of the higher education budget and the way it impacts CUNY and SUNY schools.</p> <p>“My feeling is we could perhaps utilize those resources in a way that would help SUNY and CUNY, if the goal is completion,” Glick said, in an interview, of state money that would go toward tuition-free college. “We want to look more broadly at how we can use the same amount of resources to assist a larger number of students to finish their degrees and to do so with little or no debt.”</p> <p>Other criticisms, which have been raised by higher education committees in both chambers, concerned insufficient state funds going to the schools’ operating budgets, a proposed restriction on TAP funding for private colleges that increase their tuition more than $500, and <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/01/cuomo-proposes-tithe-of-cuny-foundations-to-fund-tuition-assistance-108861" target="_blank">a “punitive” tithing</a> on money raised by CUNY foundations for tuition assistance.</p> <p>The Skoufis-led proposal drew praise from advocates. "Fortunately, this plan recognizes the majority of students take more than four years to graduate and that most middle income families still need support beyond tuition relief,” said Kevin Stump, Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, in a statement. “However, while these proposed improvements are a big step forward, the state will still need to address the inadequacies of the Tuition Assistance Program."</p> <p>In January, the Independent Democratic Conference, which is in a power-sharing coalition with Senate Republicans, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/idc-releases-2017-agenda/" target="_blank">released its agenda</a>, which includes an expansion of the TAP. The IDC is at times able to sway the Senate GOP majority into adopting positions that may be more favorable to Democrats. The Assembly Minority also supports TAP expansion.</p> <p>Prior to a February 15 deadline, Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, received hundreds of letters from legislators recommending measures to be included in the chamber’s one-house budget proposal, which will be discussed by the Assembly over the next two weeks.</p> <p>Of the Assembly members’ tuition proposal, Michael Whyland, a spokesperson for the speaker, said, “We are discussing the issue with our members.”</p> <p>When reached for comment, the governor's office stood by the Excelsior proposal, but did not indicate whether Cuomo would be amenable to the suggested changes.&nbsp;"Our goal is to provide as many New Yorkers as possible -- regardless of race or religion; gender or orientation; documentation or ability; Zip code or lineage -- the opportunity to go to college tuition free, and that goal is met with the Excelsior Scholarship program," said Cuomo's spokesperson Dani Lever via email.</p> <p>A new state budget is due by April 1, which is the start of the next fiscal year. Cuomo is likely to insist that some version of his tuition-free program is in the final spending plan for the state’s 2017-2018 fiscal year.</p> <p><em>The story has been updated to include a comment from Cuomo's office.</em></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/skoufis_assembly.jpg" alt="skoufis assembly" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p>Assemblymember James Skouis, right (photo: @JamesSkoufis)</p> <hr /> <p>More than 30 members of the state Assembly have signed a budget letter to their Speaker, Carl Heastie, outlining an alternative version of the free college tuition proposal being championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that they want Heastie to adopt for the chamber.</p> <p>The Assembly members, all Democrats, aim to make Cuomo’s plan more inclusive of the middle class and to ease proposed aid restrictions for the students at New York public universities who stand to benefit from the program.</p> <p>The letter, drafted by Assemblymember James Skoufis of Orange and Rockland Counties, recommends three changes to the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship, which Cuomo unveiled in January with the help of former presidential candidate and liberal icon Senator Bernie Sanders. It was the first and anchor proposal of Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State agenda.</p> <p>Cuomo’s plan guarantees free tuition at city and state colleges for students from households earning up to $125,000 per year, and is designed to make college more accessible and improve graduation rates in New York State. While many low-income students are already eligible for significant state aid to afford college, Cuomo said his plan was to ensure many middle class students could also attend college tuition-free.</p> <p>However, the governor’s plan has been criticized by college accessibility advocates for its restrictive four-year graduation requirements and “last-dollar” provision that supplements tuition costs only after Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Pell grants have been expended. Currently, students who are eligible for full tuition aid are not compelled to use Pell funds for tuition, rather they can be designated for books, transportation, and other college-related expenses. Many are mindful that tuition is not the only college cost and want to see the governor take that into account.</p> <p>The Assembly members’ letter asks Speaker Heastie to include in the Assembly’s one-house budget a tuition plan that rejects the "last-dollar" component of the Excelsior Scholarship as well as the 15-credit per semester requirement. With Democrats strongly in control of the chamber, they have a solid chance to see their proposal included in the one-house plan -- which, along with the Senate’s budget proposal, is expected to be released later this month. The Senate is narrowly controlled by Republicans, who have been warm to Cuomo’s tuition-free idea, but expressed concerns about how it will be paid for.</p> <p>The Assembly letter also recommends the scholarship be applied to students from households earning up to $175,000 per year.</p> <p>“SUNY and CUNY campuses host an undergraduate population that totals nearly 650,000 students,” the letter states. “Additionally, over 160,000 students are enrolled in Open SUNY and earning online credits towards a degree. Yet, the Excelsior Program is projected to benefit only 32,000 students once fully implemented in fiscal year 2019-20. This amounts to less than 5% of the entire undergraduate population.”</p> <p>Skoufis has proposed a similar “tuition-free New York” <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/a5098/amendment/a" target="_blank">bill</a>, which has been introduced in the Assembly every year since 2014, but the legislation never made it past committee. He says many middle class families are excluded under the current Cuomo proposal.</p> <p>The Assembly member cited the example of a household with two full-time teachers, each of them earning an average of $77,000 per year. However, he noted, if they live in particular zip codes, they may face high living expenses or exorbitant property taxes. “If you have two teachers in your household, by any standard, that’s a middle class household. Yet, they are going to fall above this threshold and get zero help,” Skoufis told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>He also criticized Cuomo’s “punitive” provision that would drop students from the program if their course load fell below 15 credits at any point. According to Skoufis’ bill, students would be required to graduate a two-year college within three years or a four-year college within five years to remain in the program -- it is the equivalent of 12 credits per semester. “There needs to be some flexibility here,” he said.</p> <p>The proposed changes echo some of the criticisms of the Excelsior Scholarship raised during last month’s joint legislative budget hearing on higher education. Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Assembly higher education committee, said the committee intends to put forward its own proposal, one that addresses all aspects of the higher education budget and the way it impacts CUNY and SUNY schools.</p> <p>“My feeling is we could perhaps utilize those resources in a way that would help SUNY and CUNY, if the goal is completion,” Glick said, in an interview, of state money that would go toward tuition-free college. “We want to look more broadly at how we can use the same amount of resources to assist a larger number of students to finish their degrees and to do so with little or no debt.”</p> <p>Other criticisms, which have been raised by higher education committees in both chambers, concerned insufficient state funds going to the schools’ operating budgets, a proposed restriction on TAP funding for private colleges that increase their tuition more than $500, and <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/01/cuomo-proposes-tithe-of-cuny-foundations-to-fund-tuition-assistance-108861" target="_blank">a “punitive” tithing</a> on money raised by CUNY foundations for tuition assistance.</p> <p>The Skoufis-led proposal drew praise from advocates. "Fortunately, this plan recognizes the majority of students take more than four years to graduate and that most middle income families still need support beyond tuition relief,” said Kevin Stump, Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, in a statement. “However, while these proposed improvements are a big step forward, the state will still need to address the inadequacies of the Tuition Assistance Program."</p> <p>In January, the Independent Democratic Conference, which is in a power-sharing coalition with Senate Republicans, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/idc-releases-2017-agenda/" target="_blank">released its agenda</a>, which includes an expansion of the TAP. The IDC is at times able to sway the Senate GOP majority into adopting positions that may be more favorable to Democrats. The Assembly Minority also supports TAP expansion.</p> <p>Prior to a February 15 deadline, Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, received hundreds of letters from legislators recommending measures to be included in the chamber’s one-house budget proposal, which will be discussed by the Assembly over the next two weeks.</p> <p>Of the Assembly members’ tuition proposal, Michael Whyland, a spokesperson for the speaker, said, “We are discussing the issue with our members.”</p> <p>When reached for comment, the governor's office stood by the Excelsior proposal, but did not indicate whether Cuomo would be amenable to the suggested changes.&nbsp;"Our goal is to provide as many New Yorkers as possible -- regardless of race or religion; gender or orientation; documentation or ability; Zip code or lineage -- the opportunity to go to college tuition free, and that goal is met with the Excelsior Scholarship program," said Cuomo's spokesperson Dani Lever via email.</p> <p>A new state budget is due by April 1, which is the start of the next fiscal year. Cuomo is likely to insist that some version of his tuition-free program is in the final spending plan for the state’s 2017-2018 fiscal year.</p> <p><em>The story has been updated to include a comment from Cuomo's office.</em></p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Beware of 'Common Sense' Arguments Against the Millionaire's Tax 2017-02-16T06:20:21+00:00 2017-02-16T06:20:21+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6759:beware-of-republicans-bearing-common-sense-arguments Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16848033782_69665ea263_z.jpg" alt="Speaker Carl Heastie" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>&nbsp;Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Higher taxes on New York’s wealthy are on the table in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6746-8-new-york-city-takeaways-from-cuomo-s-budget-de-blasio-s-testimony" target="_blank">three places</a> for this year’s budget negotiations. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget for 2018 includes an extension of the so-called "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/nyregion/new-york-budget-millionaire-tax.html" target="_blank">millionaire’s tax</a>”. The state Assembly has decided to see the governor and raise him with their proposed “<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/assembly-proposes-tax-hike-for-the-rich/" target="_blank">gazillionaire’s tax</a>”, while Mayor de Blasio has proposed a “<a href="http://nypost.com/2017/01/30/de-blasio-makes-another-push-for-mansion-tax/" target="_blank">mansion tax</a>”.</p> <p>The Democratic-controlled Assembly favors them all. The Republicans, who control the state Senate, are against all three. But the governor exerts a great deal of control over the New York State <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/16/albany-chronicles" target="_blank">budget process</a> and holds most of the cards. And while the governor is the one proposing the extension of the millionaire’s tax, he <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-raising-tax-wealthy-drive-n-y-article-1.2964919" target="_blank">doesn’t appear</a> to support the others. So is there any reason for progressives to believe that the mansion tax, let alone the gazillionaire’s tax, might pass now?</p> <p>For starters, taxes on the wealthy are <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/trump_and_the_gop_have_massively_unpopular_tax_policies.html" target="_blank">broadly popular</a> with voters. Just like raising the <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2014/01/23/most-see-inequality-growing-but-partisans-differ-over-solutions/1-23-2014_03/" target="_blank">minimum wage</a>, even <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2015/03/19/federal-tax-system-seen-in-need-of-overhaul/" target="_blank">Republican voters</a> tend to favor these types of taxes, as do the <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/06/cnbc-survey-shows-millionaires-want-higher-taxes-to-fix-inequality.html" target="_blank">wealthy themselves</a> irrespective of party affiliation. A recent <a href="http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/siena-poll-most-voters-support-cuomo-s-free-college-tuition/article_0de6e0a8-e6a4-11e6-948b-77a6f23db81e.html" target="_blank">Siena Poll</a> showed New Yorkers in favor of extending the millionaire’s tax by a margin of 74 percent to 23 percent, with <a href="https://www.siena.edu/assets/files/news/SNY0117_Crosstabs_1298.pdf" target="_blank">61 percent of Republicans</a> on board along with 81 percent of Democrats.</p> <p>On the other hand, Republicans are <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/02/republicans-eyeing-statewide-run-tout-fiscal-bonafides/" target="_blank">offering arguments</a> that have worked before. They say that New York is already over-taxed, and that taxes on the high earners will just drive them to leave the state and take their job-creating business with them. Corporate-backed “non-partisan” groups <a href="http://pfnyc.org/news_press/statement-from-kathryn-wylde-president-ceo-of-the-partnership-for-new-york-city-on-assembly-democrats-high-earners-tax-proposal/" target="_blank">take the same position</a>, as Governor Cuomo often does <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-raising-tax-wealthy-drive-n-y-article-1.2964919" target="_blank">as well</a>.</p> <p>If Republicans can be said to believe in just one thing, it is that progressive tax policies will drive the rich away and impoverish all who remain, bereft of “job creators”. From Ayn Rand and Galt’s Gulch, to Ronald Reagan and the Laffer Curve, to <a href="https://www.alec.org/publication/rich-states-poor-states/" target="_blank">ALEC</a> and <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/01/31/cnn_hire_hack_trump_advisor_to_spout_gibberish_about_economics.html" target="_blank">Stephen Moore</a> today, the argument that higher taxes will make the rich work less or move to some promised land of lower taxes is one of the most consistent pieces of Republican philosophy. But are any of their arguments actually grounded in observable reality?&nbsp;</p> <p>Republicans rarely cite any empirical research to back their claims. Why should they when it’s just “common sense”? But does reality back up the “common sense” of the GOP? The <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2016/05/26/do-high-state-taxes-drive-away-millionaires-not-really/#3db9b20268f6" target="_blank">answer</a> is definitively “<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">no</a>”.</p> <p><a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/state-taxes-have-a-negligible-impact-on-americans-interstate-moves" target="_blank">Study</a> after <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">study</a> after <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/tax-flight-is-a-myth?fa=view&amp;id=3556" target="_blank">study</a> has shown no significant pattern of wealthy people moving from high-tax to low-tax states, and no noticeable change in the net migration rates of high earners between US states in the wake of <a href="http://www.itepnet.org/pdf/md_5millionaires_0311.pdf" target="_blank">changes</a> in their relative tax rates. And there is no evidence that either hours worked or income earned by high earners overall is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/07/The-unexpected-way-Obamas-tax-hike-affected-the-wealthiest-Americans/?utm_term=.15fa496effa6" target="_blank">reduced meaningfully</a> by <a href="http://equitablegrowth.org/working-papers/evidence-from-2013-tax-increase/" target="_blank">higher tax rates</a>.</p> <p>Republicans can always find <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/business/one-top-taxpayer-moved-and-new-jersey-shuddered.html" target="_blank">anecdotal evidence</a> that high taxes will drive or are driving the rich from high to low-tax states. But one rich person who moves from Manhattan to Miami proves nothing. All kinds of people, rich and poor, move from New York to Florida every year. And all kinds of people move from Florida to New York. The net effect is tiny, and made up for by people moving to New York from other states and <a href="http://origin-www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-22/new-census-tells-us-where-americans-are-moving" target="_blank">other countries</a>.</p> <p>New York’s millionaire’s tax first passed in 2009. As you can see <a href="http://nypost.com/2009/02/27/big-biz-gangs-up-on-millionaires-tax-plan/" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://nypost.com/2009/05/16/billionaire-golisano-flees-ny-over-tax/" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/raising_taxes_on_the_rich_new.html" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/will-a-millionaire-tax-cause-an-exodus-of-talent/" target="_blank">here</a>, the primary argument used against it was that rich people were going to move. And when the millionaire’s tax was renewed in 2011, the <a href="http://www.pfnyc.org/reports/2011-Personal-Income-Tax.pdf" target="_blank">same arguments</a> were made, including by <a href="https://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/the-millionaires-tax/" target="_blank">Governor Cuomo</a> himself.</p> <p>With the better part of a decade’s worth of data, were the “common sense” mongers of the Right actually correct? <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">No</a>, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2016/05/26/do-high-state-taxes-drive-away-millionaires-not-really/#3ebdaf0168f6" target="_blank">no</a> and <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/state-taxes-have-a-negligible-impact-on-americans-interstate-moves" target="_blank">no</a>. New York’s rich haven’t flown off to lower tax states. Property values at the upper end of the New York real estate market have risen unabated. All their warnings have come to naught.</p> <p>So Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Herman Farrell, armed with observable fact and measurable experience, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/assembly-proposes-tax-hike-for-the-rich/" target="_blank">have introduced</a> the gazillionaire’s tax. It extends the logic of the millionaire’s tax with a series of four additional tax brackets starting at $5,000,000 and adding at most 1.5 percentage points of incremental tax on incomes over $100,000,000 per year. That’s not a typo, and yes there are multiple households in New York with annual incomes above $100,000,000, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s isn’t the only one.</p> <p>The objections to the gazillionaire’s tax are no different than the objections to the millionaire’s tax, and they are just as certain to be completely wrong in the real world. Republican arguments against higher taxes are premised in deeply faulty views of both human nature and economics. The richest of the rich don’t wake up every morning and say, “Hmmm, I will work today if my tax rate is 47 percent, but I will go back to sleep or move to Florida if it’s 48.5 percent.” We are talking about people who could never spend all of the money they have already earned. They keep working as hard as they do for a variety of reasons, like relative success, prestige, and actual enjoyment in their work, with take-home pay being just one item on a long list.</p> <p>Arguments against the mansion tax are essentially the same but even weaker. They don’t even have “common sense” to fall back on. Where’s the common sense in stating that a 2.5 percent tax surcharge on proceeds in excess of $2 million will have any effect on home sales? Are people not going to move when it’s time to move because of it? Of course not. It’s just a wealth tax applied on a transactional basis.</p> <p>Massive, long-term, structural trends -- trends that many Trump voters are incidentally rebelling against -- have been and will continue to drive the relative success of America’s, and the world’s, largest and strongest cities. Clusters of like-minded people, of competitive college graduates from all over the country and the world, will continue to grow and prosper. “Trends” that major industries, like financial services, are going to move to low-tax states are perennially flogged by the Right. But they never actually happen.</p> <p>So the next time you hear someone say, “You can’t raise taxes on the rich in New York, they already pay too much and they’ll just move to Texas or Florida; it’s just common sense”, you should say, “Yes we can raise taxes on the richest New Yorkers, all of the data over many years and many studies has shown definitively that they aren’t going anywhere, so you can stick your common sense in a hot, humid, boring low-tax state with low-wage jobs.” Now that’s just common sense.</p> <p>***<br />Gus Christensen is a financial consultant to non-profits and start-ups, as well as a former investment banker and political candidate.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16848033782_69665ea263_z.jpg" alt="Speaker Carl Heastie" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>&nbsp;Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Higher taxes on New York’s wealthy are on the table in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6746-8-new-york-city-takeaways-from-cuomo-s-budget-de-blasio-s-testimony" target="_blank">three places</a> for this year’s budget negotiations. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget for 2018 includes an extension of the so-called "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/nyregion/new-york-budget-millionaire-tax.html" target="_blank">millionaire’s tax</a>”. The state Assembly has decided to see the governor and raise him with their proposed “<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/assembly-proposes-tax-hike-for-the-rich/" target="_blank">gazillionaire’s tax</a>”, while Mayor de Blasio has proposed a “<a href="http://nypost.com/2017/01/30/de-blasio-makes-another-push-for-mansion-tax/" target="_blank">mansion tax</a>”.</p> <p>The Democratic-controlled Assembly favors them all. The Republicans, who control the state Senate, are against all three. But the governor exerts a great deal of control over the New York State <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/16/albany-chronicles" target="_blank">budget process</a> and holds most of the cards. And while the governor is the one proposing the extension of the millionaire’s tax, he <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-raising-tax-wealthy-drive-n-y-article-1.2964919" target="_blank">doesn’t appear</a> to support the others. So is there any reason for progressives to believe that the mansion tax, let alone the gazillionaire’s tax, might pass now?</p> <p>For starters, taxes on the wealthy are <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/trump_and_the_gop_have_massively_unpopular_tax_policies.html" target="_blank">broadly popular</a> with voters. Just like raising the <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2014/01/23/most-see-inequality-growing-but-partisans-differ-over-solutions/1-23-2014_03/" target="_blank">minimum wage</a>, even <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2015/03/19/federal-tax-system-seen-in-need-of-overhaul/" target="_blank">Republican voters</a> tend to favor these types of taxes, as do the <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/06/cnbc-survey-shows-millionaires-want-higher-taxes-to-fix-inequality.html" target="_blank">wealthy themselves</a> irrespective of party affiliation. A recent <a href="http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/siena-poll-most-voters-support-cuomo-s-free-college-tuition/article_0de6e0a8-e6a4-11e6-948b-77a6f23db81e.html" target="_blank">Siena Poll</a> showed New Yorkers in favor of extending the millionaire’s tax by a margin of 74 percent to 23 percent, with <a href="https://www.siena.edu/assets/files/news/SNY0117_Crosstabs_1298.pdf" target="_blank">61 percent of Republicans</a> on board along with 81 percent of Democrats.</p> <p>On the other hand, Republicans are <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/02/republicans-eyeing-statewide-run-tout-fiscal-bonafides/" target="_blank">offering arguments</a> that have worked before. They say that New York is already over-taxed, and that taxes on the high earners will just drive them to leave the state and take their job-creating business with them. Corporate-backed “non-partisan” groups <a href="http://pfnyc.org/news_press/statement-from-kathryn-wylde-president-ceo-of-the-partnership-for-new-york-city-on-assembly-democrats-high-earners-tax-proposal/" target="_blank">take the same position</a>, as Governor Cuomo often does <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-raising-tax-wealthy-drive-n-y-article-1.2964919" target="_blank">as well</a>.</p> <p>If Republicans can be said to believe in just one thing, it is that progressive tax policies will drive the rich away and impoverish all who remain, bereft of “job creators”. From Ayn Rand and Galt’s Gulch, to Ronald Reagan and the Laffer Curve, to <a href="https://www.alec.org/publication/rich-states-poor-states/" target="_blank">ALEC</a> and <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/01/31/cnn_hire_hack_trump_advisor_to_spout_gibberish_about_economics.html" target="_blank">Stephen Moore</a> today, the argument that higher taxes will make the rich work less or move to some promised land of lower taxes is one of the most consistent pieces of Republican philosophy. But are any of their arguments actually grounded in observable reality?&nbsp;</p> <p>Republicans rarely cite any empirical research to back their claims. Why should they when it’s just “common sense”? But does reality back up the “common sense” of the GOP? The <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2016/05/26/do-high-state-taxes-drive-away-millionaires-not-really/#3db9b20268f6" target="_blank">answer</a> is definitively “<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">no</a>”.</p> <p><a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/state-taxes-have-a-negligible-impact-on-americans-interstate-moves" target="_blank">Study</a> after <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">study</a> after <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/tax-flight-is-a-myth?fa=view&amp;id=3556" target="_blank">study</a> has shown no significant pattern of wealthy people moving from high-tax to low-tax states, and no noticeable change in the net migration rates of high earners between US states in the wake of <a href="http://www.itepnet.org/pdf/md_5millionaires_0311.pdf" target="_blank">changes</a> in their relative tax rates. And there is no evidence that either hours worked or income earned by high earners overall is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/07/The-unexpected-way-Obamas-tax-hike-affected-the-wealthiest-Americans/?utm_term=.15fa496effa6" target="_blank">reduced meaningfully</a> by <a href="http://equitablegrowth.org/working-papers/evidence-from-2013-tax-increase/" target="_blank">higher tax rates</a>.</p> <p>Republicans can always find <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/business/one-top-taxpayer-moved-and-new-jersey-shuddered.html" target="_blank">anecdotal evidence</a> that high taxes will drive or are driving the rich from high to low-tax states. But one rich person who moves from Manhattan to Miami proves nothing. All kinds of people, rich and poor, move from New York to Florida every year. And all kinds of people move from Florida to New York. The net effect is tiny, and made up for by people moving to New York from other states and <a href="http://origin-www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-22/new-census-tells-us-where-americans-are-moving" target="_blank">other countries</a>.</p> <p>New York’s millionaire’s tax first passed in 2009. As you can see <a href="http://nypost.com/2009/02/27/big-biz-gangs-up-on-millionaires-tax-plan/" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://nypost.com/2009/05/16/billionaire-golisano-flees-ny-over-tax/" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/raising_taxes_on_the_rich_new.html" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/will-a-millionaire-tax-cause-an-exodus-of-talent/" target="_blank">here</a>, the primary argument used against it was that rich people were going to move. And when the millionaire’s tax was renewed in 2011, the <a href="http://www.pfnyc.org/reports/2011-Personal-Income-Tax.pdf" target="_blank">same arguments</a> were made, including by <a href="https://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/the-millionaires-tax/" target="_blank">Governor Cuomo</a> himself.</p> <p>With the better part of a decade’s worth of data, were the “common sense” mongers of the Right actually correct? <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0003122416639625" target="_blank">No</a>, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2016/05/26/do-high-state-taxes-drive-away-millionaires-not-really/#3ebdaf0168f6" target="_blank">no</a> and <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/state-taxes-have-a-negligible-impact-on-americans-interstate-moves" target="_blank">no</a>. New York’s rich haven’t flown off to lower tax states. Property values at the upper end of the New York real estate market have risen unabated. All their warnings have come to naught.</p> <p>So Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Herman Farrell, armed with observable fact and measurable experience, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/assembly-proposes-tax-hike-for-the-rich/" target="_blank">have introduced</a> the gazillionaire’s tax. It extends the logic of the millionaire’s tax with a series of four additional tax brackets starting at $5,000,000 and adding at most 1.5 percentage points of incremental tax on incomes over $100,000,000 per year. That’s not a typo, and yes there are multiple households in New York with annual incomes above $100,000,000, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s isn’t the only one.</p> <p>The objections to the gazillionaire’s tax are no different than the objections to the millionaire’s tax, and they are just as certain to be completely wrong in the real world. Republican arguments against higher taxes are premised in deeply faulty views of both human nature and economics. The richest of the rich don’t wake up every morning and say, “Hmmm, I will work today if my tax rate is 47 percent, but I will go back to sleep or move to Florida if it’s 48.5 percent.” We are talking about people who could never spend all of the money they have already earned. They keep working as hard as they do for a variety of reasons, like relative success, prestige, and actual enjoyment in their work, with take-home pay being just one item on a long list.</p> <p>Arguments against the mansion tax are essentially the same but even weaker. They don’t even have “common sense” to fall back on. Where’s the common sense in stating that a 2.5 percent tax surcharge on proceeds in excess of $2 million will have any effect on home sales? Are people not going to move when it’s time to move because of it? Of course not. It’s just a wealth tax applied on a transactional basis.</p> <p>Massive, long-term, structural trends -- trends that many Trump voters are incidentally rebelling against -- have been and will continue to drive the relative success of America’s, and the world’s, largest and strongest cities. Clusters of like-minded people, of competitive college graduates from all over the country and the world, will continue to grow and prosper. “Trends” that major industries, like financial services, are going to move to low-tax states are perennially flogged by the Right. But they never actually happen.</p> <p>So the next time you hear someone say, “You can’t raise taxes on the rich in New York, they already pay too much and they’ll just move to Texas or Florida; it’s just common sense”, you should say, “Yes we can raise taxes on the richest New Yorkers, all of the data over many years and many studies has shown definitively that they aren’t going anywhere, so you can stick your common sense in a hot, humid, boring low-tax state with low-wage jobs.” Now that’s just common sense.</p> <p>***<br />Gus Christensen is a financial consultant to non-profits and start-ups, as well as a former investment banker and political candidate.</p> <p>

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State Legislators from New York City Should Not Be Bagging the Bag Fee 2017-02-06T16:14:51+00:00 2017-02-06T16:14:51+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6748:state-legislators-from-new-york-city-should-not-be-bagging-the-bag-fee Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/plastic_bag_rally.jpg" alt="plastic bag rally" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Elected officials and advocates rally outside City Hall (photo: @bradlander)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is trying to do something about plastic bags, but my state Assemblymember is attempting to undermine the city’s ability to do so. He, along with many of his NYC-based colleagues, are acting against their own constituents’ interests. This is a normal New York State versus City story, but in a moment where the stakes of politics are high because the federal government’s threats are real, this battle between city and state feels more offensive and disheartening than ever.</p> <p>The story today is that New York City passed a law last year that requires most shops to charge a five cent fee for each carryout bag a person takes when shopping. However, in January, the state Senate passed a bill to say, “Sorry New York City, we don’t like that bill so we’re going to kill it.” The state Assembly, rather than deny the Senate outright, chose to punt and delay the implementation of the city’s law for one year. As of publication, Albany’s compromise would require a new City Council to vote on the carryout bag fee a second time, after different Council members are elected for a 2018 term.</p> <p>The state Legislature's actions are a structural problem, a political problem, and a problem of spirit in these times.</p> <p>Structural problem: The state constitution has a problem, because it does not stop the state Legislature from having so much influence over the way the city governs itself. Even though the state constitution provides us the right to make our own laws through the so-called home rule provision, the Legislature is very good at getting around it. Lawmakers often use the language, “In cities with a population of more than one million...” as the preamble to a law intended to impact one city. There is only one city in this state that falls into the category of more than a million people. Although this current block of the bag bill might not be constitutional, the state Legislature knows they have a lot of precedent telling them that they might be able to do this. We could change the state constitution to protect the city’s home rule powers, but not with the Legislature guarding this power so jealously.</p> <p>Political problem: The state Senate is very confusing. There are more Democrats than Republicans, by one senator. That senator, a Democrat named Simcha Felder, spends his time with the Republicans and does not work with the Democrats. He is proud to be a Democrat in name only. There are also a group of eight Democrats called the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) who work with the Republicans, giving the Republicans an effective supermajority. They appear to hate this bag bill, and so they easily gave the Republicans in the Senate the power to undermine New York City’s desire to take another step toward a better environment. Most of the IDC is made of Senators who represent the city.</p> <p>Spirit of resistance problem: We need to take every stand we can to resist the current White House. This means that our state should be standing proud and together to show the federal government that we care about better environmental law and policy. Seeing Assembly members from the city fighting with the City Council by effectively wagging their legislative finger is not the message we should send right now. I want to see my state legislators prioritizing their energy by improving our healthcare laws here, our worker protections here, and our environmental laws here. All of these policies are under threat or attack from the federal government.</p> <p>This is why I can’t understand why my Brooklyn Assemblymember, Walter T. Mosley has not publicly stated his opposition to this bill. The state Legislature should support New York City and work together right now for the good of us all. Every environmental advocacy group in the city supports this bill. And most of the time, my Assemblymember supports the progressive legislation that his constituents expect of him. Every New York City-based state Legislator should be with their constituents on this right now and show their spirit of resistance in all forms.</p> <p>***<br />Richard Semegram is a tenant lawyer, his Twitter handle is <a href="https://twitter.com/richagram" target="_blank">@richagram</a></p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/plastic_bag_rally.jpg" alt="plastic bag rally" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Elected officials and advocates rally outside City Hall (photo: @bradlander)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is trying to do something about plastic bags, but my state Assemblymember is attempting to undermine the city’s ability to do so. He, along with many of his NYC-based colleagues, are acting against their own constituents’ interests. This is a normal New York State versus City story, but in a moment where the stakes of politics are high because the federal government’s threats are real, this battle between city and state feels more offensive and disheartening than ever.</p> <p>The story today is that New York City passed a law last year that requires most shops to charge a five cent fee for each carryout bag a person takes when shopping. However, in January, the state Senate passed a bill to say, “Sorry New York City, we don’t like that bill so we’re going to kill it.” The state Assembly, rather than deny the Senate outright, chose to punt and delay the implementation of the city’s law for one year. As of publication, Albany’s compromise would require a new City Council to vote on the carryout bag fee a second time, after different Council members are elected for a 2018 term.</p> <p>The state Legislature's actions are a structural problem, a political problem, and a problem of spirit in these times.</p> <p>Structural problem: The state constitution has a problem, because it does not stop the state Legislature from having so much influence over the way the city governs itself. Even though the state constitution provides us the right to make our own laws through the so-called home rule provision, the Legislature is very good at getting around it. Lawmakers often use the language, “In cities with a population of more than one million...” as the preamble to a law intended to impact one city. There is only one city in this state that falls into the category of more than a million people. Although this current block of the bag bill might not be constitutional, the state Legislature knows they have a lot of precedent telling them that they might be able to do this. We could change the state constitution to protect the city’s home rule powers, but not with the Legislature guarding this power so jealously.</p> <p>Political problem: The state Senate is very confusing. There are more Democrats than Republicans, by one senator. That senator, a Democrat named Simcha Felder, spends his time with the Republicans and does not work with the Democrats. He is proud to be a Democrat in name only. There are also a group of eight Democrats called the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) who work with the Republicans, giving the Republicans an effective supermajority. They appear to hate this bag bill, and so they easily gave the Republicans in the Senate the power to undermine New York City’s desire to take another step toward a better environment. Most of the IDC is made of Senators who represent the city.</p> <p>Spirit of resistance problem: We need to take every stand we can to resist the current White House. This means that our state should be standing proud and together to show the federal government that we care about better environmental law and policy. Seeing Assembly members from the city fighting with the City Council by effectively wagging their legislative finger is not the message we should send right now. I want to see my state legislators prioritizing their energy by improving our healthcare laws here, our worker protections here, and our environmental laws here. All of these policies are under threat or attack from the federal government.</p> <p>This is why I can’t understand why my Brooklyn Assemblymember, Walter T. Mosley has not publicly stated his opposition to this bill. The state Legislature should support New York City and work together right now for the good of us all. Every environmental advocacy group in the city supports this bill. And most of the time, my Assemblymember supports the progressive legislation that his constituents expect of him. Every New York City-based state Legislator should be with their constituents on this right now and show their spirit of resistance in all forms.</p> <p>***<br />Richard Semegram is a tenant lawyer, his Twitter handle is <a href="https://twitter.com/richagram" target="_blank">@richagram</a></p> <p>

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2016 Again Highlights New York ‘Incumbency Protection Machine’ 2016-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6536:2016-again-highlights-new-york-incumbency-protection-machine Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/NYC_BOE_photo_voting_machines_cropped.png" alt="NYC BOE photo voting machines cropped" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>(photo via NYC Board of Elections)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">New York City residents are represented in the state Legislature by a total of 91 seats, 26 in the state Senate and 65 in the state Assembly. Among them, 60 are held by incumbents who were uncontested in their party primary elections that took place Tuesday, September 13.</p> <p dir="ltr">In these just-completed primaries, 66 percent -- or about two-thirds -- of the city&rsquo;s state legislative seats saw no intra-party competition. Twenty-four New York City-based legislators did face primary challengers this month, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6526-new-york-state-legislative-primary-results" target="_blank">three of whom</a> lost.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, there were seven already-vacant seats or seats where the current officeholder is not seeking re-election -- most of these seats saw competitive primaries, but City Council Member Inez Dickens <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6534-keith-wright-weighs-options-amid-uptown-power-shifts" target="_blank">ran unopposed</a> for the Assembly seat <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6534-keith-wright-weighs-options-amid-uptown-power-shifts" target="_blank">being vacated</a> by Keith Wright in Harlem.</p> <p>In total, there are 150 Assembly seats and 63 Senate seats in the state Legislature. There are no term limits for state legislators in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 60 New York City-based incumbents who were uncontested from within their parties this cycle, 58 are Democrats, including State Senator Simcha Felder, who caucuses with Republicans in Albany and has both the Democrat and Republican lines on the ballot this year. In most, if not all, of these districts, Board of Elections voter enrollment data show registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republican voters 4-to-1, or more in some cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The single party dominance in many districts renders general election competition virtually meaningless and allows incumbents to be re-elected without lifting a finger. In some districts, the opposing party isn&rsquo;t running a general election candidate at all. As many as 23 state legislators across the city will face neither a primary nor general election opponent this election cycle.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, Queens Democratic Assemblymember Michael DenDekker is running unopposed in the general election after facing no challenger in the primary. Elected into office in 2008, DenDekker has never faced a primary or general election challenger, <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_DenDekker" target="_blank">according to Ballotpedia</a>. Like with many other legislative races, especially so for uncontested votes, a small percentage of registered voters cast ballots for DenDekker and other uncontested incumbents, though numbers do rise when there is a presidential contest the same day.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 2010 general election, not a presidential year, just 10,117 people -- 1-in-5 registered voters in Assembly District 34 -- selected DenDekker&rsquo;s name at the polls. New York State Assembly members each represent an average of 129,089 district residents, while state Senators have larger districts and represent roughly 307,356 residents, <a href="http://www.latfor.state.ny.us/faqs/" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment.</p> <p>Senator Felder of Brooklyn, who has been instrumental in maintaining a narrow Republican majority in the state Senate, will appear on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative ballot lines in District 17 for the general election. Felder won his first state Senate election in 2012. In that first <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/elections/2012/General/SD_07292013.pdf" target="_blank">general election</a> he defeated incumbent Republican David Storobin. He hasn&rsquo;t faced a primary or general election challenger since.</p> <p dir="ltr">Repeatedly uncontested primaries and general elections has become the norm for many seats across New York City and at least partially explains dismally low voter turnout in legislative elections around the city and state.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the <a href="http://nyenr.elections.state.ny.us/home.aspx" target="_blank">2016 primary elections</a>, 115,819 New Yorkers cast a ballot for state Senator out of nearly 1.1 million active voters within the districts where elections were held -- just 11 percent of the active voting population in those districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">With so few New Yorkers casting ballots and so little competition, state legislators are more likely to listen less to their constituents and more to the people and interest groups who fund their campaigns, political consultants, and lobbyists. Elected officials become indebted to these power brokers for maintaining their office as big donors could just as easily funnel their money to a primary challenger should their interests go unheard.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not good enough, people should be made aware of that,&rdquo; said Olateju &ldquo;Remi&rdquo; Ogunremi, 54, a civil servant who has lived in Brooklyn for ten years, when told that his local Assembly member is running unopposed and fits a larger pattern. Residing in Crown Heights, Remi is represented in the state Assembly by Walter Mosley, a Democrat who is uncontested in his primary and general election this year. &ldquo;There should be a competitor to make it more democratic,&rdquo; Remi said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Without a public campaign finance system that matches private donations and encourages small-dollar contributions, outsider legislative candidates have little to no chance of raising enough cash to stage a significant challenge without strong name recognition or support of established organizations, unions, and local political figures. Once elected, incumbents have helped redraw their own districts to their and their party&rsquo;s advantage and regularly pass legislation benefiting the people and interest groups that help them stay in office (redistricting will be done differently in New York next time thanks to a constitutional amendment <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/11/voters-approve-all-three-ballot-propositions-017202" target="_blank">passed at the ballot by voters in 2014</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Without term limits in place, state legislators get comfortable. The average tenure in Albany is over a decade long, according to a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/12/average-tenure-in-albany-more-than-a-decade-018476" target="_blank">2015 report by Politico New York</a>. State lawmakers have also been at the center of a rash of corruption schemes and convictions, including recent leaders of each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">As discontent and disapproval of state government grows, so does a lack of interest and involvement in the political system - less voting by those who are eligible; fewer aspirants willing to run for office. With loyal incumbents securely in office and fewer competitive races for which to distribute resources, campaign donors are free to hone their attention on strategic districts where they seek to broaden their influence and push their agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very difficult for newcomers to unseat incumbents,&rdquo; said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. &ldquo;Once you&rsquo;re in office it&rsquo;s much easier to stay in and protect that office, so a lot of people see it as a David versus Goliath situation and choose not to engage in trying to break into the political system.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Greer paints a striking picture of the situation: &ldquo;If you are from a very Democratic district and won your primary, then you&rsquo;re probably not going to have a credible Republican challenger when you&rsquo;re on the ballot in November. You&rsquo;re going to Albany with 4,000 votes. You&rsquo;re going to be in charge of a budget that&rsquo;s larger than most countries on the planet. You&rsquo;re going to be able to control children&rsquo;s education, what happens to a woman&rsquo;s body, prisons, drug use, punishment, marriage equality-- and you&rsquo;re being sent there with 4,000 votes.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Representing District 57, Assemblymember Mosley has no electoral competition this year. He was first elected to an open seat in 2012 when he faced challengers in both the primary and general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">District 57 -- representing large portions of Brooklyn neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant -- is one of many districts that is overwhelmingly dominated by the Democratic Party to the point that general election contests are virtually meaningless. Any serious candidate, liberal or conservative, would be smart to run as a Democrat in the district if they expect to stand a chance.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2012, 47,844 votes were cast in District 57 for the Assembly general election, which Mosley handily won with 98 percent of the vote. Occurring at the same time as the Presidential vote with Barack Obama seeking re-election against Mitt Romney, over half of the registered voters in AD57 went to the polls for the general. But, many missed the actual Assembly race that took place months before.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the AD57 Democratic primary that year, out of 72,380 registered Democrats in the district, just 7,268 cast a ballot -- about 10 percent. Mosley won with 4,565 votes, or 1-in-16 registered Democrats in a district representing over 129,000 residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;People are not enthusiastic, they are not willing to come out and vote,&rdquo; said Remi in a conversation with Gotham Gazette outside of the Franklin Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway. &ldquo;People need to be aware of which contestant they need to fight for.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD57 fits a pattern.</p> <p dir="ltr">Multiple forces produce the current system of so many uncontested elections. On one hand, there are the natural incumbency advantages of name recognition and access to financial means, but there is more to it than that.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One, is the gerrymandering that occurs allowing lawmakers to draw their own district lines&hellip;[two is] a disgraceful campaign finance system that allows them to hit up special interests for ridiculous amounts of money,&rdquo; said Blair Horner, executive director at the New York Public Interest Research Group, referring to a lack of &ldquo;pay-to-play&rdquo; restrictions on campaign donors with government business. &ldquo;You overlay that with the lousy system of running elections in general -- which is, voter registration laws are cumbersome, we have a closed primary system, getting on the ballot is difficult -- and as a result New York has anemic voter turnout, one of the worst in the country.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think the voting public increasingly believes that they will not see competitive elections by and large, and it&rsquo;s a reflection of a system that is designed to be an incumbency protection machine,&rdquo; said Horner. This is a self-perpetuating problem Horner calls a &ldquo;democracy death spiral.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One of the reasons I think the public is so unhappy with Albany is to some extent a reflection of policies that have emerged that are also not in the public&rsquo;s interest,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;As the public gets more turned off you can see it in the voter turnout numbers, interest groups wield more clout, which further alienates the voting public.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">This lack of competition has a negative impact on voter turnout, and as Greer also points out, it&rsquo;s not limited to New York City. &ldquo;Think about places in the deep south that are very red where we&rsquo;re seeing a dismal turnout among Republicans,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just a Democratic problem, it&rsquo;s an elected official problem.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Horner agrees that incumbent dominance to the point of mass uncontested elections is not unique to the Democratic Party&rsquo;s control in New York City. &ldquo;What you&rsquo;ve found in New York City sadly is the case across the state,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;New York has always had a twisted system like this&hellip;and as the stakes get higher, more and more money comes in, it too often crowds out the public&rsquo;s interest.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">With such a history of one party dominance in New York City and decades of policies that have favored incumbents, mitigating this problem is a daunting task.</p> <p dir="ltr">One place to look for possible solutions is New York City itself. With one of the most highly regarded public campaign financing systems and term limits, City Council elections have been opened up for candidates of modest means to run, and sometimes win.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;A system of public financing allows individuals who are not beholden to any groups to actually run significant campaigns for public office,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;You see that in New York and you don&rsquo;t see it at the state level because you have the highest campaign contribution limits of any state that has limits in the country, coupled with a rigged system of redistricting and the normal powers of incumbency.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The state Legislature could pass a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">variety of measures</a> that would make elections more democratic. There are advocates for the general idea of more open and fair elections throughout both the state Senate and Assembly, though most of the relevant legislation has failed to come up in each passing session, often in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another avenue of reform could be through improved civics education programs. &ldquo;I worry that we&rsquo;re just creating more and more generations of people who are disaffected and non-participatory,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;I wish we could figure out a way in which we could better educate the public about these offices, but I don&rsquo;t really know how to solve that. Obviously the literature that we&rsquo;re sending out to voters isn&rsquo;t resonating in a way, [and] it&rsquo;s not being taught in schools where students are actually retaining the information.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Voters can be among those who see it as a shared responsibility. &ldquo;Everyone has their own role to play; Republicans, Democrats, and the Board of Elections needs to generate more awareness, they need to distribute more information into the grassroots,&rdquo; said Remi. &ldquo;I mean, a grassroots election is the most important election, but having nobody to contest with, that means we&rsquo;re going to be getting the same ideas and nothing is going to change.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Others Unchallenged</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Queens</strong><br />Democratic Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Aravella_Simotas" target="_blank">Aravella Simotas</a> (AD36) has held her seat in Queens since winning an open seat election in 2010. She ran uncontested in both the <a href="http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/results/new-york/state-legislature" target="_blank">Democratic primary</a> and <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/elections/2010/general/2010AssemblyRecertified09122012.pdf" target="_blank">general election</a> that year despite there being no incumbent in the race. In 2012, Simontas handily defeated Republican Julia Haich in the general election. She has run unopposed since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_Simanowitz" target="_blank">Michael Simanowitz</a>, an elected Democrat who also appears on the Republican and Conservative ballot lines, is running unopposed in both the Democratic primary and the general election for Assembly District 27. In 2011, Simanowitz won a special election against Republican Marco Desena. He&rsquo;s been unchallenged in the primaries and general elections since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrew_Hevesi" target="_blank">Andrew Hevesi</a> is a Democrat representing Assembly District 28 in Queens since he was first elected in 2005. The last general election fight Hevesi faced was in 2010. He was also challenged in the Democratic primary that year. He&rsquo;s run unopposed in all primaries and general elections since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>Assemblymember Michelle Titus represents District 31 in Queens and is facing neither a Democratic primary opponent or any general election competition. Titus, who was first elected 2002, ran unchallenged in the primary even that year, and has never faced a primary opponent. She faced a general eleciton opponent in 2002, 2004, and 2006; while in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014, Titus faced no opponents whatsoever, al according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Jeffrion_Aubry" target="_blank">Jeffrion Aubry</a> has served in the state Assembly since he was first elected in a 1992 special election for District 35. The veteran Democrat has run unopposed in at least five straight election cycles including the current one, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Veteran Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Catherine_Nolan" target="_blank">Catherine Nolan</a> of Queens, a Democrat, has served residents of District 37 since 1984. She has not faced a primary competitor in the last five election cycles. John Kevin Wilson challenged Nolan as a Republican in 2012 and as a Libertarian in the 2014 general elections, which Nolan easily won. In the 2014 general election, Nolan defeated Wilson with just 10,336 votes, or one-in-six register voters, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Francisco_Moya" target="_blank">Francisco Moya</a> is a Democrat representing District 39 in Queens since he was first elected in 2010. He is running uncontested in the general election this November after running uncontested in the Democratic primary. The 2008 election cycle was the last time Moya faced a primary or general election opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p>SD11 - Democratic State Senator Tony Avella;<br />SD12 - Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris;<br />SD13 - Democratic State Senator Jose Peralta;<br />SD14 - Democratic State Senator Leroy Comrie; and<br />SD15 - Democratic State Senator Joe Addabbo;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD24 - Democratic State Assemblymember David Weprin;<br />AD25 - Democratic State Assemblymember Nily Rozic;<br />AD26 - Democratic State Assemblymember Edward Braunstein;<br />AD38 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Miller; and<br />AD40 - Democratic State Assemblymember Ron Kim</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Brooklyn</strong><br />Republican State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Martin_Golden" target="_blank">Martin Golden</a> has held the District 22 seat since he was first elected in 2002. He was uncontested for the Republican nomination this year and will not face a challenger in November either, despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2-to-1 in the district, which largely covers Southern Brooklyn. Registered voters with no party affiliation also outnumber Republicans in the 22nd District. Golden faced a serious challenger each of the past two general elections, though Democrats are not putting up a fight this cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 43, State Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Diana_Richardson" target="_blank">Diana Richardson</a> has held office since winning a 2015 special election in which she won 49% of the vote as a Working Families and Green Party candidate. Now an incumbent Democrat, Richardson was unchallenged in 2016 party primary, nor will she face a general election opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Dov_Hikind" target="_blank">Dov Hikind</a>, a Democrat, has served Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 48 since 1983. There is no one challenging Hikind this election cycle. In 2012, Mitchell Tischler challenged Hikind for his seat in both the Democratic primary and in the general election as a School Choice Party candidate. In 2014, Hikind ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeated Nachman Caller in the general election. In a solidly Democratic district, Caller was able to achieve over 20 percent of the total vote count. Hikind won his re-election against a serious Republican challenger with just 12,317 votes, or one-in-four registered voters in the district, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Democrat <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Joseph_Lentol" target="_blank">Joseph Lentol</a> has served in the State Assembly representing Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 50 since he was first elected in 1972. He is running unopposed in both the Democratic primary and general election this election cycle. In 2014, Lentol faced Republican challenger William Davidson and won with 9,789 votes -- one-in-eight registered voters cast a ballot for their Assembly member in a District representing over 129,000 residents, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Assembly District 53, Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Maritza_Davila" target="_blank">Maritza Davila</a> has represented Brooklyn since winning a special election in 2013. She ran uncontested in the Democratic primary this year and will run unchallenged in the general election, as was the case in the 2014 election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://ballotpedia.org/N._Nick_Perry" target="_blank">Nick Perry</a> has served as the Assemblymember for District 58 in Brooklyn since he was first elected in 1992. He will be running unopposed in the general election this year after facing no challenger in the Democratic primary either. In the last five election cycles, Perry has only faced one primary opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p dir="ltr">SD20 - Democratic State Senator Jesse Hamilton; and<br />SD21 - Democratic State Senator Kevin Parker;</p> <p>AD41 - Democratic State Assemblymember Helene Weinstein;<br />AD45 - Democratic State Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz;<br />AD47 - Democratic State Assemblymember William Colton;<br />AD49 - Democratic State Assemblymember Peter Abbate;<br />AD51 - Democratic State Assemblymember Felix Ortiz;<br />AD52 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon;<br />AD54 - Democratic State Assemblymember Erik Dilan;<br />AD59 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jaime Williams; and<br />AD60 - Democratic State Assemblymember Charles Barron</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Staten Island</strong><br />Democratic State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Diane_Savino" target="_blank">Diane Savino</a> is part of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and incumbent for District 23 on Staten Island and in parts of Brooklyn. She has held her seat since she was first elected in 2004. The IDC has helped Republicans maintain a majority in the State Senate. In 2014 multiple IDC members were challenged in the Democratic primary, though not Savino, who was again unopposed in the Democratic primary this year (other IDC members were not challenged this year either.) Savino is also running unopposed in the general election. She has never faced a primary challenger; she faced a general election opponent two cycles ago, in 2012, in Lisa Grey, who Savino handily defeated. One-in-three registered voters in District 23 cast a vote in that general election, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Senate District 24, also on Staten Island, Republican State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrew_Lanza" target="_blank">Andrew Lanza</a> has held his seat since winning in 2006. The district is home to many more Republicans than most New York City districts, though they are still outnumbered by registered Democrats in the district. Lanza has never faced a Republican primary challenger. He handily defeated Democrat Gary Carsel in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. Carsel nor any other Democrat has staged a campaign against Lanza this election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Matthew_Titone" target="_blank">Matthew Titone</a> of Staten Island ran unopposed in the District 61 Democratic Primary and will not face a challenger in the general election either. Titone won a special election in 2007 that gained him the seat. He has never faced a primary opponent though he has handily defeated several general election contestants. He ran totally unopposed in the previous election cycle of 2014, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_Cusick" target="_blank">Michael Cusick</a> is a Staten Island Democratic Assemblymember who won his first District 63 election in 2002. Cusick has run unopposed in the past five Democratic primaries, though he has faced a general election contestant every year up until now. He&rsquo;s running unopposed in the general election, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Nicole_Malliotakis" target="_blank">Nicole Malliotakis</a> has represented the people of District 64 on Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn since first winning the seat in 2010. Previously she represented District 60 in the State Assembly. The Democrats have ran campaigns against Malliotakis in the last three general elections, while she has ran unopposed in the Republican Primaries. This election cycle Malliotakis will not face an opponent in the general election in addition to the primary, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Manhattan</strong><br />In Senate District 27 of Manhattan, Democrat State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Brad_M._Hoylman" target="_blank">Brad Hoylman</a> has held office since he was first elected in 2012. This election cycle he faces no Republican opposition in winning back his seat. During the 2012 open seat election, Hoylman came through the Democratic primary, then won an uncontested general election in which 93,469 registered voters cast a ballot for him. In the primary of that year, Hoylman split the vote with two other Democratic contenders, with only 13,051 Democrats voting, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who represents District 26, which encompasses downtown Manhattan and part of downtown Brooklyn, is running unoppposed in the general after facing no primary opponent either. Squadron was elected in 2008, but did not face a primary opponent then and has not faced one since.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are nine other Manhattan legislators listed below who did not face a primary challenger this year. On the other hand, Sheldon Silver&rsquo;s replacement Alice Cancel (AD65) and Guillermo Linares (AD72) lost their seats, while Sen. Adriano Espaillat&rsquo;s chosen successor Marisol Alcantara (SD31) won her election.</p> <p dir="ltr">On the Upper East Side, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side" target="_blank">Republicans</a> are seeing hope in gaining more support for general elections in the Assembly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p dir="ltr">SD28 - Democratic State Senator Liz Krueger;<br />SD29 - Democratic State Senator Jose Serrano;<br />SD30 - Democratic State Senator Bill Perkins;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD68 - Democratic State Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez;<br />AD71 - Democratic State Assemblymember Herman Farrell;<br />AD73 - Democratic State Assemblymember Dan Quart;<br />AD74 - Democratic State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh;<br />AD75 - Democratic State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried; and<br />AD76 - Democratic State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Bronx</strong><br />Senate Minority Leader <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrea_Stewart-Cousins" target="_blank">Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a> (SD35) has represented residents north of the Bronx in Westchester County since 2006. She has never faced a Democratic primary challenger as she previously served as the vice-chair of the Westchester County Democratic Party and in the Westchester County Legislature from 1996 and until she was elected to the state Senate. Stewart-Cousins will not face a challenger in the general election this year, as was the case in the 2012 election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, a Democrat who leads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, had to primary opponent, unlike in 2014 when mainline Democrats tried to unseat him. He is also facing no Republican challenger in November. Klein's IDC has formed a ruling coalition with Republicans in the Senate for the past two sessions. Klein represents the 34th Senate District.</p> <p dir="ltr">And finally, Democratic Speaker of the Assembly <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Carl_Heastie" target="_blank">Carl Heastie</a> -- of the Bronx&rsquo;s 83rd Assembly District -- was first elected to the chamber in 2000. He is not facing a competition in his general election contest after running uncontested in the Democratic primary. Heastie ran unopposed in the last five Democratic primaries, while he defeated general election challengers in those election cycles with upwards of 95 percent of the vote, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bronx incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p>AD77 - Democratic State Assemblymember Latoya Joyner;<br />AD79 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Blake;<br />AD80 - Democratic State Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj;<br />AD81 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz; and<br />AD82 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Benedetto</p> <p dir="ltr">Many of the incumbents without a primary challenge will see an opponent from another party in the general election. That said, given that New York City voters are overwhelmingly Democrats, general election competition is often symbolic.</p> <p>&ldquo;Oftentimes for so many districts across the country, the primary is the election for all intents and purposes,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;In either strong Republican or Democratic districts, if you win your primary you essentially don&rsquo;t even face anyone in November, and if you do it&rsquo;s almost a joke.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by William Fowler for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>*note: as stated, many of the references to past elections are based on aggregation done by <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/" target="_blank">Ballotpedia</a>.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/NYC_BOE_photo_voting_machines_cropped.png" alt="NYC BOE photo voting machines cropped" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>(photo via NYC Board of Elections)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">New York City residents are represented in the state Legislature by a total of 91 seats, 26 in the state Senate and 65 in the state Assembly. Among them, 60 are held by incumbents who were uncontested in their party primary elections that took place Tuesday, September 13.</p> <p dir="ltr">In these just-completed primaries, 66 percent -- or about two-thirds -- of the city&rsquo;s state legislative seats saw no intra-party competition. Twenty-four New York City-based legislators did face primary challengers this month, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6526-new-york-state-legislative-primary-results" target="_blank">three of whom</a> lost.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, there were seven already-vacant seats or seats where the current officeholder is not seeking re-election -- most of these seats saw competitive primaries, but City Council Member Inez Dickens <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6534-keith-wright-weighs-options-amid-uptown-power-shifts" target="_blank">ran unopposed</a> for the Assembly seat <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6534-keith-wright-weighs-options-amid-uptown-power-shifts" target="_blank">being vacated</a> by Keith Wright in Harlem.</p> <p>In total, there are 150 Assembly seats and 63 Senate seats in the state Legislature. There are no term limits for state legislators in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 60 New York City-based incumbents who were uncontested from within their parties this cycle, 58 are Democrats, including State Senator Simcha Felder, who caucuses with Republicans in Albany and has both the Democrat and Republican lines on the ballot this year. In most, if not all, of these districts, Board of Elections voter enrollment data show registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republican voters 4-to-1, or more in some cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The single party dominance in many districts renders general election competition virtually meaningless and allows incumbents to be re-elected without lifting a finger. In some districts, the opposing party isn&rsquo;t running a general election candidate at all. As many as 23 state legislators across the city will face neither a primary nor general election opponent this election cycle.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, Queens Democratic Assemblymember Michael DenDekker is running unopposed in the general election after facing no challenger in the primary. Elected into office in 2008, DenDekker has never faced a primary or general election challenger, <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_DenDekker" target="_blank">according to Ballotpedia</a>. Like with many other legislative races, especially so for uncontested votes, a small percentage of registered voters cast ballots for DenDekker and other uncontested incumbents, though numbers do rise when there is a presidential contest the same day.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 2010 general election, not a presidential year, just 10,117 people -- 1-in-5 registered voters in Assembly District 34 -- selected DenDekker&rsquo;s name at the polls. New York State Assembly members each represent an average of 129,089 district residents, while state Senators have larger districts and represent roughly 307,356 residents, <a href="http://www.latfor.state.ny.us/faqs/" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment.</p> <p>Senator Felder of Brooklyn, who has been instrumental in maintaining a narrow Republican majority in the state Senate, will appear on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative ballot lines in District 17 for the general election. Felder won his first state Senate election in 2012. In that first <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/elections/2012/General/SD_07292013.pdf" target="_blank">general election</a> he defeated incumbent Republican David Storobin. He hasn&rsquo;t faced a primary or general election challenger since.</p> <p dir="ltr">Repeatedly uncontested primaries and general elections has become the norm for many seats across New York City and at least partially explains dismally low voter turnout in legislative elections around the city and state.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the <a href="http://nyenr.elections.state.ny.us/home.aspx" target="_blank">2016 primary elections</a>, 115,819 New Yorkers cast a ballot for state Senator out of nearly 1.1 million active voters within the districts where elections were held -- just 11 percent of the active voting population in those districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">With so few New Yorkers casting ballots and so little competition, state legislators are more likely to listen less to their constituents and more to the people and interest groups who fund their campaigns, political consultants, and lobbyists. Elected officials become indebted to these power brokers for maintaining their office as big donors could just as easily funnel their money to a primary challenger should their interests go unheard.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not good enough, people should be made aware of that,&rdquo; said Olateju &ldquo;Remi&rdquo; Ogunremi, 54, a civil servant who has lived in Brooklyn for ten years, when told that his local Assembly member is running unopposed and fits a larger pattern. Residing in Crown Heights, Remi is represented in the state Assembly by Walter Mosley, a Democrat who is uncontested in his primary and general election this year. &ldquo;There should be a competitor to make it more democratic,&rdquo; Remi said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Without a public campaign finance system that matches private donations and encourages small-dollar contributions, outsider legislative candidates have little to no chance of raising enough cash to stage a significant challenge without strong name recognition or support of established organizations, unions, and local political figures. Once elected, incumbents have helped redraw their own districts to their and their party&rsquo;s advantage and regularly pass legislation benefiting the people and interest groups that help them stay in office (redistricting will be done differently in New York next time thanks to a constitutional amendment <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/11/voters-approve-all-three-ballot-propositions-017202" target="_blank">passed at the ballot by voters in 2014</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Without term limits in place, state legislators get comfortable. The average tenure in Albany is over a decade long, according to a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/12/average-tenure-in-albany-more-than-a-decade-018476" target="_blank">2015 report by Politico New York</a>. State lawmakers have also been at the center of a rash of corruption schemes and convictions, including recent leaders of each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">As discontent and disapproval of state government grows, so does a lack of interest and involvement in the political system - less voting by those who are eligible; fewer aspirants willing to run for office. With loyal incumbents securely in office and fewer competitive races for which to distribute resources, campaign donors are free to hone their attention on strategic districts where they seek to broaden their influence and push their agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very difficult for newcomers to unseat incumbents,&rdquo; said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. &ldquo;Once you&rsquo;re in office it&rsquo;s much easier to stay in and protect that office, so a lot of people see it as a David versus Goliath situation and choose not to engage in trying to break into the political system.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Greer paints a striking picture of the situation: &ldquo;If you are from a very Democratic district and won your primary, then you&rsquo;re probably not going to have a credible Republican challenger when you&rsquo;re on the ballot in November. You&rsquo;re going to Albany with 4,000 votes. You&rsquo;re going to be in charge of a budget that&rsquo;s larger than most countries on the planet. You&rsquo;re going to be able to control children&rsquo;s education, what happens to a woman&rsquo;s body, prisons, drug use, punishment, marriage equality-- and you&rsquo;re being sent there with 4,000 votes.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Representing District 57, Assemblymember Mosley has no electoral competition this year. He was first elected to an open seat in 2012 when he faced challengers in both the primary and general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">District 57 -- representing large portions of Brooklyn neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant -- is one of many districts that is overwhelmingly dominated by the Democratic Party to the point that general election contests are virtually meaningless. Any serious candidate, liberal or conservative, would be smart to run as a Democrat in the district if they expect to stand a chance.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2012, 47,844 votes were cast in District 57 for the Assembly general election, which Mosley handily won with 98 percent of the vote. Occurring at the same time as the Presidential vote with Barack Obama seeking re-election against Mitt Romney, over half of the registered voters in AD57 went to the polls for the general. But, many missed the actual Assembly race that took place months before.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the AD57 Democratic primary that year, out of 72,380 registered Democrats in the district, just 7,268 cast a ballot -- about 10 percent. Mosley won with 4,565 votes, or 1-in-16 registered Democrats in a district representing over 129,000 residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;People are not enthusiastic, they are not willing to come out and vote,&rdquo; said Remi in a conversation with Gotham Gazette outside of the Franklin Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway. &ldquo;People need to be aware of which contestant they need to fight for.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD57 fits a pattern.</p> <p dir="ltr">Multiple forces produce the current system of so many uncontested elections. On one hand, there are the natural incumbency advantages of name recognition and access to financial means, but there is more to it than that.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One, is the gerrymandering that occurs allowing lawmakers to draw their own district lines&hellip;[two is] a disgraceful campaign finance system that allows them to hit up special interests for ridiculous amounts of money,&rdquo; said Blair Horner, executive director at the New York Public Interest Research Group, referring to a lack of &ldquo;pay-to-play&rdquo; restrictions on campaign donors with government business. &ldquo;You overlay that with the lousy system of running elections in general -- which is, voter registration laws are cumbersome, we have a closed primary system, getting on the ballot is difficult -- and as a result New York has anemic voter turnout, one of the worst in the country.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think the voting public increasingly believes that they will not see competitive elections by and large, and it&rsquo;s a reflection of a system that is designed to be an incumbency protection machine,&rdquo; said Horner. This is a self-perpetuating problem Horner calls a &ldquo;democracy death spiral.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One of the reasons I think the public is so unhappy with Albany is to some extent a reflection of policies that have emerged that are also not in the public&rsquo;s interest,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;As the public gets more turned off you can see it in the voter turnout numbers, interest groups wield more clout, which further alienates the voting public.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">This lack of competition has a negative impact on voter turnout, and as Greer also points out, it&rsquo;s not limited to New York City. &ldquo;Think about places in the deep south that are very red where we&rsquo;re seeing a dismal turnout among Republicans,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just a Democratic problem, it&rsquo;s an elected official problem.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Horner agrees that incumbent dominance to the point of mass uncontested elections is not unique to the Democratic Party&rsquo;s control in New York City. &ldquo;What you&rsquo;ve found in New York City sadly is the case across the state,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;New York has always had a twisted system like this&hellip;and as the stakes get higher, more and more money comes in, it too often crowds out the public&rsquo;s interest.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">With such a history of one party dominance in New York City and decades of policies that have favored incumbents, mitigating this problem is a daunting task.</p> <p dir="ltr">One place to look for possible solutions is New York City itself. With one of the most highly regarded public campaign financing systems and term limits, City Council elections have been opened up for candidates of modest means to run, and sometimes win.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;A system of public financing allows individuals who are not beholden to any groups to actually run significant campaigns for public office,&rdquo; said Horner. &ldquo;You see that in New York and you don&rsquo;t see it at the state level because you have the highest campaign contribution limits of any state that has limits in the country, coupled with a rigged system of redistricting and the normal powers of incumbency.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The state Legislature could pass a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">variety of measures</a> that would make elections more democratic. There are advocates for the general idea of more open and fair elections throughout both the state Senate and Assembly, though most of the relevant legislation has failed to come up in each passing session, often in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another avenue of reform could be through improved civics education programs. &ldquo;I worry that we&rsquo;re just creating more and more generations of people who are disaffected and non-participatory,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;I wish we could figure out a way in which we could better educate the public about these offices, but I don&rsquo;t really know how to solve that. Obviously the literature that we&rsquo;re sending out to voters isn&rsquo;t resonating in a way, [and] it&rsquo;s not being taught in schools where students are actually retaining the information.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Voters can be among those who see it as a shared responsibility. &ldquo;Everyone has their own role to play; Republicans, Democrats, and the Board of Elections needs to generate more awareness, they need to distribute more information into the grassroots,&rdquo; said Remi. &ldquo;I mean, a grassroots election is the most important election, but having nobody to contest with, that means we&rsquo;re going to be getting the same ideas and nothing is going to change.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Others Unchallenged</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Queens</strong><br />Democratic Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Aravella_Simotas" target="_blank">Aravella Simotas</a> (AD36) has held her seat in Queens since winning an open seat election in 2010. She ran uncontested in both the <a href="http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/results/new-york/state-legislature" target="_blank">Democratic primary</a> and <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/elections/2010/general/2010AssemblyRecertified09122012.pdf" target="_blank">general election</a> that year despite there being no incumbent in the race. In 2012, Simontas handily defeated Republican Julia Haich in the general election. She has run unopposed since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_Simanowitz" target="_blank">Michael Simanowitz</a>, an elected Democrat who also appears on the Republican and Conservative ballot lines, is running unopposed in both the Democratic primary and the general election for Assembly District 27. In 2011, Simanowitz won a special election against Republican Marco Desena. He&rsquo;s been unchallenged in the primaries and general elections since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrew_Hevesi" target="_blank">Andrew Hevesi</a> is a Democrat representing Assembly District 28 in Queens since he was first elected in 2005. The last general election fight Hevesi faced was in 2010. He was also challenged in the Democratic primary that year. He&rsquo;s run unopposed in all primaries and general elections since, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>Assemblymember Michelle Titus represents District 31 in Queens and is facing neither a Democratic primary opponent or any general election competition. Titus, who was first elected 2002, ran unchallenged in the primary even that year, and has never faced a primary opponent. She faced a general eleciton opponent in 2002, 2004, and 2006; while in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014, Titus faced no opponents whatsoever, al according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Jeffrion_Aubry" target="_blank">Jeffrion Aubry</a> has served in the state Assembly since he was first elected in a 1992 special election for District 35. The veteran Democrat has run unopposed in at least five straight election cycles including the current one, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Veteran Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Catherine_Nolan" target="_blank">Catherine Nolan</a> of Queens, a Democrat, has served residents of District 37 since 1984. She has not faced a primary competitor in the last five election cycles. John Kevin Wilson challenged Nolan as a Republican in 2012 and as a Libertarian in the 2014 general elections, which Nolan easily won. In the 2014 general election, Nolan defeated Wilson with just 10,336 votes, or one-in-six register voters, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Francisco_Moya" target="_blank">Francisco Moya</a> is a Democrat representing District 39 in Queens since he was first elected in 2010. He is running uncontested in the general election this November after running uncontested in the Democratic primary. The 2008 election cycle was the last time Moya faced a primary or general election opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p>SD11 - Democratic State Senator Tony Avella;<br />SD12 - Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris;<br />SD13 - Democratic State Senator Jose Peralta;<br />SD14 - Democratic State Senator Leroy Comrie; and<br />SD15 - Democratic State Senator Joe Addabbo;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD24 - Democratic State Assemblymember David Weprin;<br />AD25 - Democratic State Assemblymember Nily Rozic;<br />AD26 - Democratic State Assemblymember Edward Braunstein;<br />AD38 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Miller; and<br />AD40 - Democratic State Assemblymember Ron Kim</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Brooklyn</strong><br />Republican State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Martin_Golden" target="_blank">Martin Golden</a> has held the District 22 seat since he was first elected in 2002. He was uncontested for the Republican nomination this year and will not face a challenger in November either, despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2-to-1 in the district, which largely covers Southern Brooklyn. Registered voters with no party affiliation also outnumber Republicans in the 22nd District. Golden faced a serious challenger each of the past two general elections, though Democrats are not putting up a fight this cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 43, State Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Diana_Richardson" target="_blank">Diana Richardson</a> has held office since winning a 2015 special election in which she won 49% of the vote as a Working Families and Green Party candidate. Now an incumbent Democrat, Richardson was unchallenged in 2016 party primary, nor will she face a general election opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Dov_Hikind" target="_blank">Dov Hikind</a>, a Democrat, has served Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 48 since 1983. There is no one challenging Hikind this election cycle. In 2012, Mitchell Tischler challenged Hikind for his seat in both the Democratic primary and in the general election as a School Choice Party candidate. In 2014, Hikind ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeated Nachman Caller in the general election. In a solidly Democratic district, Caller was able to achieve over 20 percent of the total vote count. Hikind won his re-election against a serious Republican challenger with just 12,317 votes, or one-in-four registered voters in the district, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Democrat <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Joseph_Lentol" target="_blank">Joseph Lentol</a> has served in the State Assembly representing Brooklyn&rsquo;s District 50 since he was first elected in 1972. He is running unopposed in both the Democratic primary and general election this election cycle. In 2014, Lentol faced Republican challenger William Davidson and won with 9,789 votes -- one-in-eight registered voters cast a ballot for their Assembly member in a District representing over 129,000 residents, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Assembly District 53, Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Maritza_Davila" target="_blank">Maritza Davila</a> has represented Brooklyn since winning a special election in 2013. She ran uncontested in the Democratic primary this year and will run unchallenged in the general election, as was the case in the 2014 election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://ballotpedia.org/N._Nick_Perry" target="_blank">Nick Perry</a> has served as the Assemblymember for District 58 in Brooklyn since he was first elected in 1992. He will be running unopposed in the general election this year after facing no challenger in the Democratic primary either. In the last five election cycles, Perry has only faced one primary opponent, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p dir="ltr">SD20 - Democratic State Senator Jesse Hamilton; and<br />SD21 - Democratic State Senator Kevin Parker;</p> <p>AD41 - Democratic State Assemblymember Helene Weinstein;<br />AD45 - Democratic State Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz;<br />AD47 - Democratic State Assemblymember William Colton;<br />AD49 - Democratic State Assemblymember Peter Abbate;<br />AD51 - Democratic State Assemblymember Felix Ortiz;<br />AD52 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon;<br />AD54 - Democratic State Assemblymember Erik Dilan;<br />AD59 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jaime Williams; and<br />AD60 - Democratic State Assemblymember Charles Barron</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Staten Island</strong><br />Democratic State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Diane_Savino" target="_blank">Diane Savino</a> is part of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and incumbent for District 23 on Staten Island and in parts of Brooklyn. She has held her seat since she was first elected in 2004. The IDC has helped Republicans maintain a majority in the State Senate. In 2014 multiple IDC members were challenged in the Democratic primary, though not Savino, who was again unopposed in the Democratic primary this year (other IDC members were not challenged this year either.) Savino is also running unopposed in the general election. She has never faced a primary challenger; she faced a general election opponent two cycles ago, in 2012, in Lisa Grey, who Savino handily defeated. One-in-three registered voters in District 23 cast a vote in that general election, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Senate District 24, also on Staten Island, Republican State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrew_Lanza" target="_blank">Andrew Lanza</a> has held his seat since winning in 2006. The district is home to many more Republicans than most New York City districts, though they are still outnumbered by registered Democrats in the district. Lanza has never faced a Republican primary challenger. He handily defeated Democrat Gary Carsel in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. Carsel nor any other Democrat has staged a campaign against Lanza this election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Matthew_Titone" target="_blank">Matthew Titone</a> of Staten Island ran unopposed in the District 61 Democratic Primary and will not face a challenger in the general election either. Titone won a special election in 2007 that gained him the seat. He has never faced a primary opponent though he has handily defeated several general election contestants. He ran totally unopposed in the previous election cycle of 2014, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Michael_Cusick" target="_blank">Michael Cusick</a> is a Staten Island Democratic Assemblymember who won his first District 63 election in 2002. Cusick has run unopposed in the past five Democratic primaries, though he has faced a general election contestant every year up until now. He&rsquo;s running unopposed in the general election, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican Assemblymember <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Nicole_Malliotakis" target="_blank">Nicole Malliotakis</a> has represented the people of District 64 on Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn since first winning the seat in 2010. Previously she represented District 60 in the State Assembly. The Democrats have ran campaigns against Malliotakis in the last three general elections, while she has ran unopposed in the Republican Primaries. This election cycle Malliotakis will not face an opponent in the general election in addition to the primary, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Manhattan</strong><br />In Senate District 27 of Manhattan, Democrat State Senator <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Brad_M._Hoylman" target="_blank">Brad Hoylman</a> has held office since he was first elected in 2012. This election cycle he faces no Republican opposition in winning back his seat. During the 2012 open seat election, Hoylman came through the Democratic primary, then won an uncontested general election in which 93,469 registered voters cast a ballot for him. In the primary of that year, Hoylman split the vote with two other Democratic contenders, with only 13,051 Democrats voting, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who represents District 26, which encompasses downtown Manhattan and part of downtown Brooklyn, is running unoppposed in the general after facing no primary opponent either. Squadron was elected in 2008, but did not face a primary opponent then and has not faced one since.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are nine other Manhattan legislators listed below who did not face a primary challenger this year. On the other hand, Sheldon Silver&rsquo;s replacement Alice Cancel (AD65) and Guillermo Linares (AD72) lost their seats, while Sen. Adriano Espaillat&rsquo;s chosen successor Marisol Alcantara (SD31) won her election.</p> <p dir="ltr">On the Upper East Side, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side" target="_blank">Republicans</a> are seeing hope in gaining more support for general elections in the Assembly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p dir="ltr">SD28 - Democratic State Senator Liz Krueger;<br />SD29 - Democratic State Senator Jose Serrano;<br />SD30 - Democratic State Senator Bill Perkins;</p> <p dir="ltr">AD68 - Democratic State Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez;<br />AD71 - Democratic State Assemblymember Herman Farrell;<br />AD73 - Democratic State Assemblymember Dan Quart;<br />AD74 - Democratic State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh;<br />AD75 - Democratic State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried; and<br />AD76 - Democratic State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Bronx</strong><br />Senate Minority Leader <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Andrea_Stewart-Cousins" target="_blank">Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a> (SD35) has represented residents north of the Bronx in Westchester County since 2006. She has never faced a Democratic primary challenger as she previously served as the vice-chair of the Westchester County Democratic Party and in the Westchester County Legislature from 1996 and until she was elected to the state Senate. Stewart-Cousins will not face a challenger in the general election this year, as was the case in the 2012 election cycle, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p>Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, a Democrat who leads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, had to primary opponent, unlike in 2014 when mainline Democrats tried to unseat him. He is also facing no Republican challenger in November. Klein's IDC has formed a ruling coalition with Republicans in the Senate for the past two sessions. Klein represents the 34th Senate District.</p> <p dir="ltr">And finally, Democratic Speaker of the Assembly <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Carl_Heastie" target="_blank">Carl Heastie</a> -- of the Bronx&rsquo;s 83rd Assembly District -- was first elected to the chamber in 2000. He is not facing a competition in his general election contest after running uncontested in the Democratic primary. Heastie ran unopposed in the last five Democratic primaries, while he defeated general election challengers in those election cycles with upwards of 95 percent of the vote, all according to Ballotpedia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bronx incumbents in addition who did not face primary competitors include:</p> <p>AD77 - Democratic State Assemblymember Latoya Joyner;<br />AD79 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Blake;<br />AD80 - Democratic State Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj;<br />AD81 - Democratic State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz; and<br />AD82 - Democratic State Assemblymember Michael Benedetto</p> <p dir="ltr">Many of the incumbents without a primary challenge will see an opponent from another party in the general election. That said, given that New York City voters are overwhelmingly Democrats, general election competition is often symbolic.</p> <p>&ldquo;Oftentimes for so many districts across the country, the primary is the election for all intents and purposes,&rdquo; said Greer. &ldquo;In either strong Republican or Democratic districts, if you win your primary you essentially don&rsquo;t even face anyone in November, and if you do it&rsquo;s almost a joke.&rdquo;</p> <p>

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by William Fowler for Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>*note: as stated, many of the references to past elections are based on aggregation done by <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/" target="_blank">Ballotpedia</a>.</p>