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Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union

Charge Or Release!


When I graduated from Midwood High School a dozen years ago, the community surrounding it represented what is best about the city - the diversity of everyday living - something that was evident each time we ate at the diner at Flatbush Junction with its predominantly African American customers, or walked through the tree-lined streets of the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, or caught the bus at Little Pakistan on Coney Island Avenue

A decade later, Little Pakistan, one of the communities that make up the neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, has undergone an arresting change. The Pakistani Embassy estimates an exodus of as many as 15,000 within the past few years, with formerly bustling stores reporting a 40 percent drop in business, and mosques once so overcrowded during services that worshippers laid their prayer rugs on the sidewalk now one-third empty on Fridays.

Midwood's residents fled as a direct consequence of the government's new antiterrorism policies. The impact on this one community is part of a larger narrative on the impact of these policies on many lives, in particular those of people guilty of no crime. But this will not end with Midwood's Little Pakistan.

Since 9/11 the government has resurrected an old and disproved formula to violate civil liberties for a temporary sense of security. Widespread ethnic and religious profiling of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men living in the United States, and a relentless attack on immigrants' rights are commonplace today. Thousands of New York City residents have been detained, deported, or interrogated by the federal government.

In New York City, what began as profiling and detentions in Midwood, quickly spread to attacks on other rights and liberties, including the right to freedom of speech, expression, and association guaranteed to us all by the First Amendment. During last summer's Republican National Convention, city officials once again used the national security card to curtail New Yorkers' right to political expression and association. Just some of the tactics used by the police that left a chilling impact on New Yorkers' First Amendment rights include the closing of Central Park to political rallies; the mass arrests of hundreds of innocent individuals; the lengthy detentions of individuals charged with minor violations; and the widespread police videotaping of lawful protest activity.

Particularly disturbing were the cases of hundreds of individuals detained by the police with no access to a judge for excessive periods beyond what's permitted by law. During the Republican National Convention, hundreds of demonstrators were detained for 30, 40, or even 50 hours without arraignment after arrest for protest-related activities. As the months progressed and the overwhelming majority of the 1,800 arrests at the convention were dismissed, advocates began studying the issue and looking for ways to solve the problem once and for all.

That is why the Charge or Release bill is scheduled to be introduced in the City Council this week by Councilmember Bill Perkins. The legislation will address the serious injustice caused by prolonged detention without arraignment -- injustice not limited to immigrants. It is a response to the general attack on civil liberties post-9/11, and to problems faced by communities of color in New York City on a daily basis.

Each month in New York City, thousands of individuals are detained by the police for periods exceeding the 24 hours permitted before seeing a judge. A recent study by the NYCLU and its Bill of Rights Defense Campaign, a project I direct, found that during the months of October and November 2004, more than 16,000 individuals were held for longer than 24 hours. In Bronx County, 62 percent of arrestees were arraigned after 24 hours of detention, in violation of New York case law.

To understand the severity of the issue one must understand that bringing an arrestee before a judge for arraignment is more than a technicality of the law. The arraignment is the first time since the arrest that individuals are formally informed of the charges against them, their right to counsel and their right to seek bail. It is the first time that individuals who have been held for hours incommunicado may finally communicate with their counsel, family and friends.

Adding insult to injury, the majority of those detained in violation of the 24 hour mandate are charged with low level offenses, such as misdemeanors or violations, and would likely face no jail time if convicted. Yet while they wait unnecessarily in often overcrowded detention facilities, many are forced to miss work or school, or must urgently attempt to locate child care. Moreover, the prolonged detention of political demonstrators keeps them from taking part in ongoing protests and discourages others from participating in future demonstrations. This chills our right to freedom of speech and association.

The Charge or Release bill will require that the New York Police Department and the Department of Correction fulfill their arrest processing duties in an expeditious and timely manner to ensure arraignment by a judge within 24 hours of arrest. The bill also provides the New York City Council oversight over the arrest-to-arraignment process. It will create transparency where this is little now. (The bill only addresses problems faced by arrestees in New York City detained by the local police; it does not address the detention of immigrants by the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI, which are federal agencies.)

Future generations will remember the post-9/11 era as a time of great controversies in the United States. It didn't begin this way. Right after 9/11, New Yorkers and people from the across the country were united in their remembrance of the victims of those terrible attacks, and in a resolve to prevent future attacks from happening. Yet today, the post-9/11 era has come to symbolize opportunism and a time when civil liberties are placed in danger by ineffective government measures that do little to protect the nation, yet threaten our core values. The Charge or Release bill will restore some of those rights that have been needlessly lost.

Udi Ofer is the director of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign for the New York Civil Liberties Union

 

Bully Busting


Bully Busting

For Liliya Kane, a young immigrant from Russia, the problems began when she started seventh grade in a New York City public school. Her fellow students pelted her with spitballs and wads of paper, stole her diary and paid a boy to ask her out on a date. "Every day there was something new and something more horrible," Kane said. "I grew to hate everything that had to do with my nationality and my culture. I couldn't bring myself to completely trust anybody."

Kane told of her experiences at a recent City Council hearing. At the same meeting, several Asian high school students described being beaten up by a larger group of African-American teenagers. The lesbian mother of a third grader said classmates ridiculed her daughter, telling her that her parents were "disgusting."

New York City schools officially prohibit bullying, but verbal abuse, taunting, menacing, sexual harassment and physical violence pervade many schools. To confront the problem, the city has opened a high school for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered students - a frequent target of school bullies - and City Council passed an anti-bullying bill over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's objections. Now, the mayor refuses to enforce the law. The state has an anti-bullying policy, although legislation aimed at the problem remains stalled in the legislature.

Experts debate which measures work and which don't. But adults no longer dismiss bullying as just part of growing up. Most now agree that harassment wreaks lingering psychological damage, interferes with learning, and can lead to further, sometimes extreme, violence.

FROM TOM BROWN TO HILLARY CLINTON

Fighting, teasing, taunting and arguments are commonplace in schools and on the streets. Bullying, though, according to the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Newsletter, goes beyond simple squabbling or even fist-fighting to entail "a power imbalance between the bully and the target" that can spring from differences in size, strength, skill, popularity or gender. Sexual orientation and race can also be factors. Bullying can range from an outright act -- hitting or insulting -- to more subtle but equally damaging acts such as excluding the victim from the group.

Ironically, the word bully derives from the Dutch word boel, for lover, but by the mid-1600s had come to mean "harasser of the weak." The 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days depicts Tom's efforts to deal with a cowardly bully at the notorious British Rugby School.

"I was bullied. No one has not been bullied," Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund told the Washington Post.

In her autobiography, Hillary Clinton recalls being bullied as a new kid on the block in a Chicago suburb. "Every time I walked out the door, with a bow in my hair and hopeful look on my face, the neighborhood kids would torment me, pushing me, knocking me down and teasing me until I burst into tears and ran back in the house," the senator said. The abuse continued until her mother forced her to go back outside and stand up for herself.

And bullying is not limited to schools - or even to children. An entire institute studies workplace bullying. Domestic abuse is often another term for bullying of children, partners and the elderly.

Some of the opposition to President George W. Bush's nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations centers around allegations that Bolton is a bully - or, as former State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford phrased it, a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of a guy."

Other grownups cited as bullies include rapper Eminem - "the bullied boy turned bully," in the words of a Boston Globe critic - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose taunts of "girlie men" have become the staple of satire, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, whose bullying of her staff provide grist for the roman a clef "The Devil Wore Prada."

TAKING ON THE ISSUE

The spate of deadly school shootings beginning in the 1990s helped move bullying from being a personal issue to a social and political one. Of 41 school shooters studied (.pdf) by the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, two-thirds felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured before the shooting, with many having been the victims of "longstanding and severe bullying and harassment,' according to a study. "It is reasonably clear," psychologist Elliot Aronson wrote, "that a major root cause of the recent school shootings is a school atmosphere that ignores, or implicitly condones, the taunting, rejection, and verbal abuse to which a great many students are subjected."

THINGS TO DO

If kids feel they are being bullied, experts say they should go to a trusted adult for help and tell them truthfully what is going on.

Bully Stoppers has a list of 25 Great Comeback Lines," that students can use when they are teased or harassed, ranging from "You really know your insults," to "The real you can't be this mean." The group also advises children to be accompanied by friends on the street or schoolyard, since bullies are more likely to prey on children who are alone.

Parents should be alert to signs their children are being bullied. If there's a problem, they should discuss it with a teacher, guidance counselor or school administrator. It helps if the parents knows what school policies are in place to battle bullying.

Some seemingly obvious responses to bullying prove counterproductive, according to experts. Parents, should not, for example, suggest that their child try to avoid a bully or hit back. And parents should not approach the bully's parents, who will often simply take their child's side, leading, to further retaliation.

At the same time, research has indicated how pervasive bullying is. A 2001 study of students in 8th through 11th grades by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that "four of five students--boys and girls--report that they have experienced some type of sexual harassment in school."

A Los Angeles study of 192 sixth-graders concluded that almost half had been bullied at least once during a five-day period. "We knew a small group gets picked on regularly, but we � didn't know how much bullying we would find over a few random days," Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychologist and co-author of the study, has said.

"Building Blocks to Safety," a Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8 to 15 year olds found that more students cited teasing and bullying as "big problems" than mentioned drugs, alcohol, racism, AIDS, or pressure to have sex.

Connie Cuttle, director of Student Engagement for the city Department of Education, said that national research shows that the problem peaks in the middle grades and starts to fall off in the ninth grade. Teacher Frank Jump agrees the problem reaches an apex in middle school. "They don't know what is going on with their bodies and it is out of control," he said. "They are also testing out how they are perceived by others and where they fit in the scheme," he said.

Victims of bullying feel sick more often than their classmates, get lower grades and miss more school, Adrienne Nishina, who also worked on the UCLA study, told Time magazine. But the bullying also has effects on the perpetrators, with studies finding that bullies are far more likely than other children to go on to delinquent and even criminal behavior. And students who simply witness bullying can feel angry and anxious. "When kids pay attention to their environment, witnessing bullying often makes them feel bad," Juvonen has said.

INSIDE NEW YORK'S CLASSROOMS

As an art and health teacher at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, Jump sees more than his share of bullying. Most of it is racially motivated, he says, sometimes within the same race because someone is perceived to be "too white" or "too black."

"A girl in my sixth grade class who was tall and dark was getting picked on by black kids who called her 'burnt cookie.' I would intervene and say, 'Excuse me. I can't believe this is happening in my classroom,'" Jump said. "I ended up telling the girl, 'They hate you because you are beautiful,' and that became her defense. She started looking at herself more closely and saying, 'Maybe I am beautiful.'"

Jump says that in classes with very low functioning students, "bullying is almost constant. I have one class where it is such a problem that I can barely teach a lesson."

Youth Communications, which works with city teenagers, has compiled "Sticks and Stones," a collection of essays on bullying. In one, Nadishia Forbes writes that, growing up in the Caribbean, "I never really worried about whether my clothes matched." But she continues, in a New York junior high school she became a "perfect target" because of her immigrant status and the way she dressed. The bullying escalated from giggles and pointing to having "kick me" signs stuck on her back. "I would go to school each day with my heart pounding," she wrote.

Writing from the other perspective, Julio Garcia acknowledges being part of a "pretty brutal" gang of 8 to 10 year olds, who "beat up smaller kids" and said "nasty, disrespectful things to women." He credits getting involved in karate with turning him away from bullying. "At the dojo," he wrote of the karate training hall, "I learned respect for people and objects."

POLITICAL ACTION

The city's school discipline code, (in pdf format) which describes violations ranging from cutting class to shooting someone, bans bullying. It bars students from "engaging in intimidation and bullying behavior, threatening, stalking or seeking to coerce or compel a student or staff member to do something; engaging in verbal or physical conduct that threatens another with harm, including intimidation through the use of epithets or slurs involving race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, religious practices, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability."

But some advocacy groups and City Council members felt this was not enough. So, last July, the council passed an anti-bullying bill, the Dignity for All Students Act. It requires the city Department of Education to establish policies and guidelines that prohibit harassment and bullying, and to create a system for tracking and reporting incidents.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, the main sponsor of the bill, said it responds to deficiencies in the discipline code. "Teachers tell us that they don't have the supportive mechanisms necessary to deal with the problem of bullying and that they are pressured not to report things because it would make the school look bad," he said

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ridiculed the council measure as "silly" and vetoed it. After the council overrode the veto, the administration declared the law "illegal" and refused to enforce it. Councilmember Alan Gerson said the council is preparing to go to court to get the administration to comply with the law.

The general counsel to the city education department, Michael Best, said the state's existing Safe Schools Against Violence in Education law pre-empts the city law. But supporters of the Dignity for All Students Act say that, unlike the city law, the existing state law does not specifically address bias-related harassment and attacks.

Advocates have proposed a state Dignity for All Students Act. The Democrat-controlled State Assembly overwhelmingly passes it every year, but the Republican-led Senate objects to listing categories of protection in the bill--especially "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" and expression. The Bloomberg administration says it supports the state version of the bill, even as it refuses to implement the city measure, which has many similar requirements for reporting, intervention, and training.

Bully Police USA, a group that monitors efforts to deal with bullying, gives New York State a grade of F on the issue. "If a state doesn't have a law, it is a crapshoot to see how the individual school or even a district will address the problem," says Tom Letson, a middle school counselor in New Jersey who works with an organization called Bully Stoppers.

WHAT THE CITY DOES

The city Department of Education catalogued 1,769 incidents of harassment in New York City public schools last year �- an average of about one and a half per school. The department only counts incidents that require a police report.

Critics question how the number could be so low, but Rose Albanese-DePinto, director of School Intervention and Development insists "reporting must happen of all incidents." Students or parents are first supposed to report incidents to teachers who are supposed to convey them to principals who can make their reports in an online system.

Connie Cuttle said the education department has not collected any data on how bullying affects learning, absences, grades, and student mental health in New York City specifically.

Parents have testified about their frustration with getting school administrators to confront bullying. Malika Simmons, whose fourth-grade son attends PS 161 in Crown Heights, said her son was bullied continuously, but administrators would not intervene. "I feel bullied as a parent," she told the City Council.

Joy Tomchin, who has a 10-year old son at PS 41 in Greenwich Village, said her son was teased for being fat, a lavatory was designated the "faggot bathroom," and youngsters were bullied for being Asian, for their amounts of body hair, learning disabilities, being adopted, female, short, tall, or wearing the wrong clothes. Her complaints about such behavior, Tomchin said, "were met by silence."

Albanese-DePinto said parents who do not get satisfaction from their principal should go to regional superintendents or the central administration if necessary

Councilmember Gerson does see "greater attention within the [education] department" to bullying, which he attributes at least partly to the council's action.

The Department of Education trains staff in how to deal with conflict resolution and intergroup relations among students. It operates Harvey Milk High School for students harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, an open admission that the school system is not safe for these students.

Cuttle said the city is trying to apply two national programs, one for elementary and middle schools and the other for high schools throughout the system. The department will train teams in every school to instruct the staff on these techniques.

Some of the anti-bullying programs derive from the work of Norwegian educator Dan Olweus, who called for involving the whole school. According to Tom Roderick, executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility-New York Metro, "we have to show the kids ways to be allies for kids being targeted. And...we have to provide individual counseling for both the bullies and the targets."

But anti-bullying programs cost money and take time. Since discussions of bullying inevitably deal with the sensitive issues of race, sex and sexual orientation, schools can be reluctant to confront it in the classroom.

While some studies question the effectiveness of such programs, other studies conducted in the 1990s in England and Norway found they could cut bullying by 30 percent to 50 percent.

"If we begin to evolve the youth culture to the point where it is cool to be empathetic, just as we have made progress on fighting drugs,� said Gerson, �we can succeed."

Liliya Kane's experience shows that some programs can work. In high school, she became involved with The Council for Unity, a program launched at Brooklyn's John Dewey High School after a violent racial incident in 1975. It provides training for students and teachers, stresses cultural awareness and offers mentoring programs. Kane said it has helped her. "My self- esteem and confidence improved a lot, if not soared," she said. "I regained pride in my culture and my nationality."

 

Immigrant Family Literacy Program


Leslie Lin enjoys learning English so much that she has never studied so hard in her life.

A retired music teacher from Taiwan, Lin is a permanent resident of the United States who decided to settle down in Flushing, Queens just a year ago. Before that, she had spent five years traveling between Taiwan and New York every six month in order to maintain her green card. Learning English is one of the main reasons she says she decided to settle down.

“I didn’t get a chance to study overseas when I was young,” Lin said. “Now I am enjoying it so much that I never miss a class”.

Lin, currently taking ESL course at the Flushing Public Library, is one of countless immigrants trying to learn English in their new adopted home in New York.

Now, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would spend $1.8 million for a new initiative called the Immigrant Family Literacy Program, which will fund English classes, as well as legal services for immigrants and workers.. The initiative won immediate applause from immigrants. But many said it is not enough.

“It’s great that the city is providing money to fund those classes,” said Lin, who attends five hours of classes at the Flushing Public Library. “But whenever there is a new class, the line is so long and they put a lot of people on the waiting list.” She was informed two months after the class began that she finally got a slot because someone dropped out.

But not many immigrants are as lucky as Lin, who has a pension. To many immigrants, being able to speak English means a better job, better opportunities for their children -- a better life.

“Some of my neighbors could not even tell the difference between the ‘W’ and ‘M’ on the parking sign and they end up getting tickets,” said Lin. “English is the primary language here. If many people can’t speak it, it will eventually bring down the overall competitiveness of the country.”

According to the Immigrant Family Literacy Alliance, an umbrella group of immigrant social service providers, components of immigrant family literacy may include ESL classes, basic adult education, GED preparation, parenting classes, activities for parents and children together and so on.

A recent Department of City Planning study showed that a record-high 2.9 million of New Yorkers are foreign-born, constituting 38 percent of the city’s population. Many social services organizations said the demand is far greater than what the funding could provide.

“We’ll take whatever we get, but we could always use more,” said Elyse Rudolph, executive director of the Literacy Assistance Center. “Immigration has always been one of the major forces behind this city’s vitality.” She added that there are more than a million children and adults in need of help in English but the mayor’s new funding, combining an additional $900,000 in private funding, could only provide for about 1,000 families.

Some immigrant support groups say the new initiative is long overdue and call for a substantial increase.

“As Mayor Bloomberg’s first and only immigrant funding initiative since he came into office, it dramatically falls short of what is needed both in terms of the dollars and in the scope of services it funds,” said Chung-Wha Hong, deputy director of New York Immigration Coalition. The coalition is urging the mayor and the City Council to provide $10 million in the city budget to meet the need.

Meanwhile, some community leaders call for more classes that would fit the working immigrants’ schedule so they can fully take advantage of them.

“At current funding levels, tens of thousands of immigrants are turned away from English classes because community groups do not have the resources to offer enough classes, especially the evening and weekend classes that working immigrants need,” said Ana Maria Archila, executive director of Latin American Integration Center in Woodside, Queens.

While many immigrants come here to pursue a better economic future, some are also looking to find a sense of belonging.

Regina Kim, a housewife originally from Korea who attended English class in Queens, said learning English also offers some comfort and connection to American society.

“We immigrants are not going anywhere,” said Kim, who arrived 15 years ago with little English skill. “Now I can read books and watch television. It makes me happy.”

A native of Taipei, Taiwan, Larry Tung is a frequent contributor to the Citizen.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues


• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights For All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City’s Future

This is an exciting year and an exciting opportunity because we have a chance here in New York City to do something important for our entire country. You know, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a mayor in New York who’s a real progressive leader for urban areas in our country in general. Like many of you, I got on buses to swing states, went to phone banks and called Florida and Ohio, and was disappointed with the results of the last election. But I don’t know how we can expect to win Ohio if we can’t win back the most Democratic city in the United States of America.

We have a chance this year to send a clear message that we’re going to force this country to deal with urban issues, because the mayor of the City of New York is the urban leader in our country. Until we have a Democratic, progressive mayor, we’re never going to have conversations about how we educate kids in urban areas, about how we make sure that we protect cities from foreign attack, and about how we deal with equal rights for gays and lesbians and civil rights issues generally. We’re never going to have that conversation because the mayor of the City of New York for the last 12 years has been apologizing for policies and practices that have bankrupted not just New York City, but urban areas all over the country. When I go all over the city and I talk to people, I see people looking for new leadership and here at home and around our country.

This mayor is making the wrong choices for our city’s future. He has chosen to focus all of his political energies and billions of taxpayer dollars on the construction of a football stadium that we don’t want and we don’t need. He could be putting that capital, both political and financial, into building schools and protecting subway service, and building the affordable housing we need.

It’s the wrong choice to have focused all of these energies and to have shoved this sweetheart deal through, when the right choice is an open and competitive process that would yield billions of dollars for the MTA, and when the right choice is to build housing and commercial developments on that site.

He’s been making the wrong choice on our schools, choosing to focus on bureaucratic reshuffling instead of the fundamentals that we know work in education. I think the best thing that this mayor has done is get control of our schools system. The best. And the worst thing that he has done is squander that control. After more than three years, we have not only the right, but the responsibility to hold him accountable for those results.

What are the results? Attendance is down. Test scores are off. Parents are more disconnected that ever. Teachers are leaving the system in droves. Violence is an increasing problem. And it’s because he’s focusing his time and his energy on the wrong things and mismanaging the things that he’s focusing on.

What’s the right choice? It’s actually not as complicated as this mayor and his chancellor sometimes suggest. We know what works in education. It’s actually pretty simple. Think about it: smaller class sizes, more quality teachers, safer schools, and stronger after-school programs. That’s it. If we focus on those four things, combined with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which creates the opportunity for a real leap forward, we can truly improve our schools and make this a city of opportunity for our children.

This is a mayor who has focused on the wrong choices on jobs, declaring victory on unemployment. I hear him go all over the city and say, “We’re doing great; unemployment has never been so low,” at the same time that he and I and you all know that 49 percent of [male] African Americans in the city, and 43 percent of [male] Latinos in the city don’t have jobs. What’s the right choice? The right choice is to focus on job training for the formerly incarcerated, programs to keep kids in schools, and give capital and training support for entrepreneurs and community scholars. That’s what the City Council has done under my leadership.

This mayor has made the wrong choices on LGBT rights. He has chosen to spend almost four years ducking the issue of gay marriage, telling us that his personal opinion doesn’t matter. He’s mayor of the City of New York, and he says his personal opinion on the central struggle for civil rights for LGBT New Yorkers and Americans doesn’t matter.

Now we finally got a court decision that many of us fought for here in New York, and he tells us his personal opinion. And it turns out he’s right; his personal opinion didn’t matter. Because once he tells us what his personal opinion is, he uses the weight of his office and my and your taxpayer dollars to go into court, and fight against equal rights for New Yorkers. He actually submitted papers in which he compared gay civil marriages to allowing marriages between uncles and nephews. It’s outrageous. What’s the right choice? The right choice is to stand up and fight for equal rights for New Yorkers.

I have been for gay marriage since I ran for office for the first time in January of 1996. More than a year ago, I stood on the steps of City Hall with many of you and called upon the mayor to issue marriage licenses immediately. The right choice is to issue those marriage licenses, to stand up and say, “The equal protection laws of the State of New York applies to LGBT New Yorkers, and I, as mayor - if you choose me, if I’m so fortunate to be elected - will issue those marriage licenses immediately, because it’s the right thing to do.

And finally, this mayor has made the wrong choice, over and over and over again, choosing to roll over to a president and to a governor who do not have the city’s best interests at heart, instead of choosing to stand up and keep fighting for our fair share. When this mayor came into office, we were sending $20 billion more to Washington than we got back every year. And now, more than three years later, we’re sending $24 billion more to Washington than we get back every year. He took a situation that nobody thought could get any worse, and made it worse.

What’s so frustrating to me about this, is that I know that this can change. It has to change. Think about it. We live in the most powerful city in the world. New York City has the most powerful business community, the most powerful labor community, and the most powerful political donors. We’re the most powerful city in the world and we have to act like we’re powerless because we’re paralyzed by a lack of leadership.

What’s required is for somebody to roll up their sleeves and bring together those powerful business, labor, and political leaders, with our delegations, and say, “Enough is enough. I am the leader of the City of New York, and we are going to change this together.” And if we did, if we could get some of that, if we weren’t starting $24 billion behind, think what we could accomplish as a city.

Now, we know that the mayor has made the wrong choices, but I’m not going to talk to you about his wrong choices, I’m going to talk to you about the right choices that I’ve laid out. How do you know that I’ll make those right choices, because I’m asking you to support me for mayor? You know I’ll make the right choices as mayor because I’ve already been making the right choices as Speaker.

As Speaker of the New York City Council for the last three and a half years I’ve brought together the most diverse legislature in the country, behind great goals that people said could never be accomplished, during the toughest time this city has ever faced and accomplished them.

I’ve passed the first city Earned Income Tax Credit that helped lift 700,000 people from poverty toward prosperity.

I passed the first real living wage law that helped 50,000 people whose jobs were created by city tax dollars provide for their families.

I’ve passed the first real lead paint legislation in the history of our city or anywhere else in this country that will protect children without driving the cost of housing through the roof. This was something everyone said couldn’t be done.

And over and over again, I’ve stood up for principles and progressive values I believe in, passing the equal benefits law over this mayor’s veto, the Dignity for All Students act, the first transgender civil rights act, the only domestic partnership recognition act in the country that recognizes other jurisdictions’ marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships. Through the toughest budgets we have ever faced, I have found money to fund LGBT groups that are doing extraordinary work all over the city. I have also put the rest of our values and principles in place: putting education first, fighting back the mayor’s cuts for education, protecting our senior centers and child health clinics from closure, and still doing it in a fiscally responsible way.

And if you elect me as mayor, I’ll continue to make those right choices for our city’s future. I know we can do this. I know we can. We don’t have to settle. We can have a mayor who will stand up and fight for every community in the city, no less the LGBT community. And I can only do it with your help. I can’t do it alone. And so I’m here to ask you to support me for mayor, but also to ask you to get involved. This is our city. I love this city. I know you love this city. We can make it better. We can make it more just. We can make it stronger. But we can only do it together.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, there are only 30 city-funded beds for LGBT homeless youth; I want to know what the city can do to provide for these kids. Will you commit yourself to increasing funds in this year’s budget and what other steps can you take?

Miller: Good question and an important issue. As speaker, I have certainly fought hard to increase funding for groups that address the concerns of LGBT homeless youth. Certainly, there is a considerable population whose needs are not being met, and I will seek to ways in the budget to increase funding for those needs.

QUESTION: There was a gay bashing up in the Bronx a few weeks ago. As mayor, what can you do to address this problem?

Miller: As speaker of the council, I have repeatedly supported funding for organizations that deal with violence against LGBT people. My staff also works closely with the police department on these incidents.

More broadly, we have to make this a city that banishes that sort of hatred and bigotry. We need a mayor who not only supports the concept of equality for all New Yorkers, but provides leadership to address it. Ultimately, gay bashing comes from bigotry. That why it is so offensive that the mayor spent four years saying that his opinion on gay marriage doesn’t matter. It marginalizes the community and the struggle.

The mayor of the City of New York is required to have an opinion on everything! You can’t even imagine the variety of things the mayor of New York is required to have an opinion on - and this is the one on which the mayor says, “My personal opinion isn’t important.” That’s wrong. And it creates an environment where it is OK to overlook bigotry, to overlook discrimination.

We live in a society that systematically discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. LGBT New Yorkers and LGBT Americans do not have the same rights that everyone else has. As long as we accept this and say “it would be nice if we could extend equal rights to all Americans and all New Yorkers,” then we support an environment where some New Yorkers don’t have the same value as others.

QUESTION: Once a month, Union Square Park becomes a war zone with a massive police presence surrounding the park and arresting people on bicycles. Will you end the existing NYPD/Bloomberg policy and work with Critical Mass they way they used to before the Republican Convention?

Miller: People have a right to ride a bike in this city, but they have to abide by the laws. We used to make it possible for people to march and do all things across the city before this mayor took office and the RNC came to the city. I was critical at the time and continued to be critical of the way the mayor welcomed the Republican National Convention but did not seem to understand that he had the responsibility to welcome those whose views were not on display at Madison Square Garden. It was OK for people to go to a Dave Matthews Band in Central Park, so it ought to have been OK to have protestors exercise their First Amendment rights in Central Park. We have to have a police department that works with groups to accomplish the kinds of activities connected to that.

Other Candidates Speeches:

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights For All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

 

 

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues


• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

It was looking forward to this forum and saying hello to people with whom I have been working for over 20 years. It has been 22 years since I first cast my vote [for gay rights legislation] in the City Council. It was the first landmark piece of legislation, guaranteeing lesbians and gays civil rights and human rights. After that I have talked to the issues of HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. [I have worked] to take the fight out of the press releases and into the Board of Education, into our hospitals and non-profit organizations, to stand up for domestic partnerships, to stand up for marriage equality. I left the City Council in 1987 to become Bronx borough president, but my activism did not stop there. I was proud to sit on the first LGBT task force in the borough, to fund the first Lavender Center in the borough, and to help organize the first gay pride parade down the Grand Concourse, which I led as the grand marshall.

Sometimes people have told me over the years, “You don’t make an awful lot about your record.” Well I don’t think you deserve gold stars for doing the right thing.

I know what it is to come from a community that does not enjoy its full civil and human rights and have them denied from time to time. I know what it is to sit in the City Council and hear others try to make false distinctions between the someone else’s civil rights and their own. There is no distinction. If you believe in human rights, you believe in human rights. There is no gold star for that. You do what you must do, forge the coalitions that you must.

Whether it’s a discharge motion, or the extension of domestic partnership rights to those you do business with the city, or the rights of the transgendered - for me it fits into same category. You cannot believe in some human rights and not for all.

There was a tragic murder that took place in the city a few weeks ago. Rashawn Brazell was not only murdered, but dismembered, simply because he was gay. It is a stark and sobering reminder to all of us, that while this can happen in this city, we can’t stop talking about human rights. I won’t say anything more about that particular murder, but I will say the following. There are some who say, “I can’t do this, because we are not prepared for it,” but I do believe that people who believe fervently in human rights make the world ready for them.

That is what I tried to do as the borough president of the Bronx for 15 years - make the Bronx ready. You have to make people ready for human rights, and I prefer to lead on that issue rather than follow.

QUESTION: In March 1986, the gay rights bill passed out of committee by a vote of 5 to 1. On March 20, it passed [the full council] by 23 to 9 to 3. It was a historic vote, and it took 16 years to get that bill through. You did not sponsor the bill. There were 15 sponsors and you would not sponsor it. I would like that addressed.

Second, [in May 1986] there was a bill introduced into the City Council that decimated the gay rights bill in terms of housing. Ruth Messinger was quoted as saying that that bill would make our community into second-class citizens. You were one of the people who voted to weaken the gay rights bill. Ed Koch vetoed that bill and it didn’t become law. I would like you to explain that vote.

Last, our enemy number one is [Bronx State Senator] Ruben Diaz, Sr. and last year you did cable TV commercials in support of his State Senate campaign. Can you explain that one?

Ferrer: Let me take the third one first because that is the easiest one to address. When it is between him and a former criminal defendant [Pedro Espada Jr.] who was charged with ripping off poor people and especially individuals with AIDS in the Bronx - it was easy for me! It was easy for me! Choices are seldom perfect, but you make them.

To get back to 1986, I am so delighted that you mentioned it. But you failed to mention that was on the General Welfare Committee [that voted in favor of it] and you failed to mention that I debated the bill in spite of having my sexuality questioned and threats of fire bombing on my house. But I proudly debated and voted for that bill in 1986, because, as I said then and today, you can’t be for some human rights and not all.

As for your second question. Just so we all know what this question is all about, it concerns a side agreement to that landmark anti-discrimination law that I helped pass 19 years ago. That amendment was part of a keeping together a fragile coalition that we needed in order make that law a law. I want to call your attention to an editorial in the New York Times on May 3, 1986 that said exactly that. I have a copy here, and I will quote “a fragile coalition for passage was thus preserved.” Choices aren’t only perfect, but I am proud to have played a role not only in the coalition, but preserving that coalition.

If this about a record that goes back 22 years, then that is more than most people have spent in public service. I have been at this fight a long time. And I am serious about making progress on human rights. And if you are serious about making progress, you have to focus on what matters. And those are things I have been working on beginning 22 years ago.

I know what it is like to be the target of bigots. I recognize it every time I shave in the morning. I know what it is like to get late night phone calls threatening you and your family’s safety in your own home and requiring police protection. Despite that, I would do it again gladly in a second.

Q: I work in social services with LGBT homeless youth. We only have 22 emergency beds in the city and 15 to 20 transitional beds. But the city funds a very large Catholic organization where our youth are harassed physically, sexually, and verbally. They would rather sleep on the train than go to this provider. If you become mayor, how would you help this population?

Ferrer: Today, homelessness in general is approaching the record numbers we saw in 1986 and 1987. It’s approaching what we saw during the Great Depression in this city. As I said when I was borough president and Mayor Dinkins had a commission to discuss homelessness, we can’t treat homelessness and homeless individuals and families as one amorphous blob.

People have different needs and different reasons for being homeless in the first place. LGBT youth need to be supported. You can’t put them in the same facilities as so many others because it will only compound their problems and compromise their safety. The city owes them more.

I believe in differentiated and supportive housing. By the way, it isn’t only LGBT youth who are at risk at the Franklin Avenue Armory. It’s everyone. There are a great number of people who refuse shelter, not because they are not crazy, but they fear for their safety. This city isn’t doing enough to keep them safe and secure. As mayor, you can count on me.

Q: I would like for you to clarify your characterization of the Amadou Diallo case? It is my simple interpretation that it was a sort of retreating from your original position that it was a criminal matter but that now it is civil.

Ferrer: First of all, it was no retreat. Second, in spite of what you might read in some newspapers in daily circulation that have a point of view - one of them especially has a point of view and it is far right of anyone in this room - I acknowledged already that I used some careless words and I have taken responsibility for that.

But I also acknowledged in the same remarks before police audiences and civilian audiences that the reason I got arrested with cuffs behind my back, was because I believe that divisive policies by the police commissioner and the mayor contributed to the police failures that night. The extension of the Street Crimes Unit and all of the other things that we know happened on Wheeler Avenue that night. And I have addressed those issues.

I have come here to talk about the things that New Yorkers really need to focus on - full human and civil rights, decent and affordable housing, good schools without excuses, the gargantuan waste of our money for a West Side Stadium when we should be dealing with the crisis of affordability in this city.

And while we are talking about the police, there are 6,000 fewer police in our ranks today than at the end of 2000, and we’re wondering if this city will be ready to face the next problem - God forbid we should face it at all. Those are the things we need to talk about in this city.

Q: Follow up question on police. I submit that we are wasting huge amounts of money on the last Friday of every month with the police surrounding Union Square Park…. Will you change the existing policy of the mayor and police commissioner in working with the group Critical Mass?

Ferrer: I think the theory of preemption is as bankrupt in New York as it has proved to be in Iraq.

Other Candidates Speeches:

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

 

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues


• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

C.Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs To Listen

I am now in my 16th year in government. I served eight years as a member of the New York City Council and I am now in my eighth as the president of the Borough of Manhattan. All of those experiences have provided a broad based knowledge and understanding of every aspect of government - budget, policy, personnel, administration, and I might add, political diplomacy. In addition to the time spent as an elected official, I also served as the chair of the local community board for two years and as a member of that board for 10 years. All of that is relevant to process of governance and I have fundamental differences with this mayor and his approach to government.

This mayor is one who governs by exclusion, with a top down approach and fait accompli decisions. He does not listen, does not include, and does not reach out. I believe the decisions that affect all of our daily lives are not well informed and certainly lack the input from elected officials and others in the community.

I will have a much more inclusive approach. I think opinions matter; point of view matters. When it comes to issues within the LGBT community, I will have that dialogue. I will use those relationships so that we can address issues in a way that is most beneficial for the whole community.

When it comes to education, let us include educators and not make those decisions with a trial and error process that does not lead us to the best result for our school children.

When it comes to housing, there are steps we can take, concrete steps to build affordable housing.

Let us involve and listen, so we can get things done.

My work with you, the LGBT community, has been extremely meaningful. I am for marriage equality. I am for the Dignity for All Students Act. I am for adoption rights for LGBT parents as well as the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” because it doesn’t work. I am for the protection of transgendered people.

As borough president, I have appointed more people from the LGBT community to local community boards than any other borough president in history. That is important because the voices need to be there to shape decisions. I have been happy to fund the work of the common law health center as well as the LGBT community center.

I understand the sting of prejudice, the sting of discrimination. As an African-American woman, I know what it means to be locked out, left out, and told, “you don’t matter, and you are not worthy.” In my case, it’s the color of my skin. In your case, it is sexual orientation, plus color of skin. It is one thing to knock down discrimination in laws, but it is another thing to deal with attitudes. What we need to do now in the city and in this country is change attitudes. We have a lot of work to do.

I am looking forward to being a leader of this city, delivering a clear mandate and projecting the kind of attitude that should relate to all of us - leading us forward, working together, and getting things done.

QUESTION: One unfortunate aspect of our city’s diversity is the way politics of different people varies in different neighborhoods. We have neighborhoods where people who spoke in favor of the “children of the rainbow” curriculum had to have a police escort out of a public hearing. And the tires of a blood mobile at a lesbian blood drive were slashed. As a candidate from Manhattan, what will you do to ensure the safety of LGBT people in the outer boroughs?

Fields:It is unfortunate that we have to ensure the safety of people because of their sexual orientation, but it is real and we must address that. I think tolerance is important in understanding different people in different communities as it relates to sexual orientation, race, and other issues and that it must be taught through our schools, our churches, our religious institutions, in our homes. That is the way you get people to discuss it. These are issues that we haven’t confronted.

Let’s do some public things and have some discussions. Bring some LGBT people together with non-LGBT people. Let’s open up these discussions in the same way we have in certain communities of color around issues of HIV/AIDS. Many in the black community did not want to admit that this was an issue in our community and we allowed it to move further and further before we did something about it.

We should acknowledge it, recognize it, bring it into open discussions, have people in leadership positions like the mayor talk about this and talk about the importance of respecting people. In incidents where we need to reinforce police or protection, let’s do that.

We are very concerned about what happened to the African-American gay man Rashawn Brazell [who was murdered in February] out in Brooklyn. Very little has been said about it. Very little has been done about it. That should be discussed and become part of a larger discussion. If the crime was a result of him being gay, let’s use it to teach and change minds and attitudes. Let’s use every vehicle and mechanism in our disposal to have those discussions.

Q:In the nearly four years that Mike Bloomberg has been mayor he has not appointed one openly gay man or lesbian woman to the courts. What do you make of this?

Fields:You’d have to ask Mayor Bloomberg why that hasn’t been done. I can only say that Mayor Fields would take a much different approach. I would look to be diverse in terms of my appointments to various positions including judges and that includes members of the LGBT communities, as well as others from various racial, ethnic, and religious communities.

Q:When you get to be mayor, how will you extend affordable housing programs?

Fields:One of the things we started in my office about four years ago was a Mitchell-Lama task force because we saw that we were coming to the end of a 20-year period where owners of Mitchell-Lama buildings were being bought out. That started in Manhattan and it has now spread citywide. We were able to encourage Assemblyman Vito Lopez to introduce legislation in Albany that would enable us to get some Mitchell-Lama housing under the rent stabilization program. As mayor I would be a strong advocate in Albany, because if we lose a lot of the people who live in Mitchell-Lama developments, working people, middle-income people who have stabilized our communities and if that housing becomes only market rate, then we will see massive displacement. We need to fight back at all costs.

With respect to affordable housing overall, we have a plan and we will work to implement that plan. That is to put in place ways to really create affordable housing. The reality is that the city must invest dollars. When we look at how we were able to build affordable housing in the past under Mayor Ed Koch, money was put into the budget, and subsidies were leveraged to increase private investment. It would start with the funds put into the Battery Park City fund for affordable housing. We haven’t had a mayor use those funds since Koch. At the rate we are going, we could have approximately $1 billion in that fund over the next ten years.

We also need to take an inventory of city owned properties throughout this city. And instead of selling city owned property at market rate prices as the administration is currently doing, we need to make it part of the incentive package as we have in the past. I know it can be done. On 112th Street to 135th Street, we sold city land at a nominal cost and we were able to provide incentives to work with developers to build housing at different levels so people in different income levels could afford it.

Other Candidates speeches:

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues


 

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Anthony Weiner: Democrats with a Big and a Small "D"

I have a history of fighting for civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered New Yorkers. When I was running for Congress in 1998, long before the issue of gay marriage was particularly hot, and at that time civil unions was the big issue being contested, I endorsed gay marriage.

It was at the Lambda endorsement meeting that I did. Within 48 hours, there was a meeting of the largest Orthodox [Jewish] organization in New York. One of my opponents was an icon of the civil rights movement - Noach Dear. I didn’t say what type of an icon, just that he was iconic. Somehow he had a tape recording of my remarks, which he had reproduced and distributed on the tables at the dinner. There was speculation at the time that this might be the ruin of my campaign.

You have to understand a little about the district I represent. They are great people from Brooklyn and Queens in communities of Flatbush, the Rockaways, Rego Park and the like. There was a great deal of speculation that in the conservative, Orthodox [Jewish], and Catholic community - that maybe support of gay marriage would be the undoing of a very close campaign.

I would argue that I did not get elected in spite of that support, but because of it. I began a discussion about basic human dignity and basic rights of all New Yorkers. I engaged in a discussion with people who to this day strongly disagree with me about why we in the Jewish community should always be conscious and careful not to deny rights to anyone.

I also started a career where I have been able to win overwhelming majorities in the same district that Mike Bloomberg is getting a Republican primary from his right. Let me repeat that. I won 70 percent of the vote this year in the district where Mike Bloomberg is being challenged for not being conservative enough.

Why is this important? It is important because one of the things we need to do is recognize that we need to speak truth to all corners of the city. The next evolution of the debate about equal rights for all and true civil rights for all is going to be to take those people who think that someone having the right to marry who they love is an apocalyptic change for our country and teach them otherwise.

This is the most important way that Mike Bloomberg let us down. When Mike Bloomberg took the law firm of the city of New York and challenged the lower court ruling on gay marriage, he took the power of city and all of us and put it behind challenging that decision - and it was bad.

It was bad for another reason. It denied us a moment of political victory. It denied the moment for me to go to my constituents in conservative part of Queens and say, “look the sky hasn’t fallen, you don’t have chaos in the streets, you don’t have anarchy.”

He denied us a moment to engage in a debate and to say for this moment in time gay marriage is legal in New York. And it hasn’t taken away anyone else’s rights. By him challenging that decision and announcing almost overnight that he was going to do so, not only did he put the full legal weight of the city against us, but also he denied us those precious few weeks or months of political victory.

That is window into the type of mayor Mike Bloomberg is and a window into how I would be different.

People make the argument: Does it really matter whether Mike Bloomberg is a Republican who acts like a Democrat or a Democrat who postures as a Republican? They say there is no conservative or liberal or Democratic or Republican way to collect the garbage.

I tell you that there is an enormous difference whether there is a Democrat or Republican running the show.

One example, imagine for a moment that we had the Republican convention here in town. The mayor of the city of New York had the opportunity to speak at that convention. Imagine if he would have said, “My Republican friends, welcome to New York. Welcome to this great city. Welcome to this great diversity. Enjoy yourself while you are here.” But while he had this moment in the sun, imagine if he had also said, “The way that you are treating people who are different than the Republican Party is an outrage. The way that you are dividing one community against another is an outrage. The way you are stigmatizing people because they fell in love with a person of their own gender is an outrage.” It would have taken that issue and elevated it overnight to the front page of the New York Times.

This notion that you get more with sugar than with vinegar is sometimes true. But it hasn’t been the truth in this case.

It is more than what you say; it is also the process that you believe in. We as democrats with small “d” and big “D” believe that there is a way to govern. Do any of us believe that if we had a truly open process and democracy was followed and we sat down with the most creative people on the planet - New Yorkers, the most creative land use theorists, the most creative engineers, the most creative open space thinkers -we would have come up with a stadium for the West Side of Manhattan? Not in a thousand years.

When we were revamping the education system, if we had said let’s bring in some teachers, parents, and had the audacity to ask other elected officials about their experiences, would we have the kinds of problems we have in education today? It is more than just process for process sake. The outcomes you get when you practice democratic with a small “d” and a capital “D” are simply better.

When the mayor proposed selling the West Side railyards, he said let’s get $100 million. He said, “Let’s not get any other bids. I made a deal with a fellow billionaire, that’s it.” Well even the modified open process that the MTA followed netted us an extra $300 to $400 million. How does the mayor justify that? How does he explain why he was willing to give away $400 million of our money?

This notion that he is a brilliant businessman above reproach and he is incapable of making a bad decision - I have to tell you there is more “pay to play” in this administration than any administration in recent memory. It doesn’t come in the form of campaign contributions, which are disclosed within minutes. They come through contributions to the Olympic 2012 committee. They come over dinner parties with crystal chandeliers on the East Side of Manhattan. Those are rooms we never get into, and that is going to change when I become mayor.

We are going to have a different kind of dialogue in this city. We are going to disagree, we are going to fight - we always do. But that isn’t going to be what determines whether or not we proceed in this city.

If you agree with me that we need a true spirit of democratic reform in this city, where are you going to get it?

I would argue that you get it from me - someone who is not beholden to the big developers for his campaign contributions; someone that doesn’t come from the womb of the traditional Democratic machine; someone who has truly been elected as an independent Democratic. I wasn’t supported by the Brooklyn Democratic party when I ran for City Council, I was outspent three to one, and I won. When I ran for Congress, I was opposed by the Queens Democratic Party and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, I was outspent three to one, and I won.

The reason is I engage people in the discussion of ideas and ideals. I do it everyday. I don’t think of myself as a politician who is going to advance himself - although if that happens it’s a nice benefit - but I think of the families in my district. I think of them when they sit at the breakfast table and they think about the school they are going to drop their kid off at and how the experienced teachers are giving way to a less experience crew. I think of them as they go to the subway and hope that this is the one in three days that it is actually going to work. When they are on lunch break and they look at their coworkers and realize how impossible it is to find housing in this city unless you are very wealthy. And the moment they have a health care crisis that can lead them into bankruptcy. These are the things I think about and why I work so hard. We need to start fighting for our city again.

Too often we as Democrats come into these knife fights with library books. This Mike Bloomberg has another thing coming with me. I am going to hit him with so many rights he is going to be begging for a left. I am going to be in his face every single day.

QUESTION: Recently there have been several high profile gay bashing incidents in the city. As mayor, what would you do to reduce those situations and what would you do when they do happen?

Weiner: For too long in this city, we have had mayors who have treated the fundamental rights of gay people as a political issue. Bloomberg has done it. Giuliani certainly did it. There is too much measuring of our reactions based on who might be offended or put off by the things we say. Any increase in crime is bad, and there has been an increase in these types of crimes. I have never heard the mayor talk about it. I never hear the police commissioner talk about it.

We need to elevate these crimes out of the nuisance category. We have to educate a police force that is frankly made up of very young officers who often come from backgrounds different from the communities they patrol and we have to make sure they get it.

That means bringing people to roll call and explaining what it’s like to be a gay man in this city. And treat these as hot spot issues as any other crime. I’m not convinced they do that. We worship at the alter of the seven index crimes FBI crimes and what has gone up or down, but to an individual person who is a victim, it is terrible.

It really strikes at the fabric of our city is when there is a blow struck against somebody because of the community they represent and no one knows that better than a Jewish New Yorker. When there is an anti-Semitic attack, we all react. When there is a gay bashing attack, frankly all New Yorkers should be outraged.

Q: I am from Staten Island, a very conservative community and a Republican stronghold. We are hoping to have a gay pride parade in June and we doubt that our Republican borough president or any of the elected officials - Democrat or Republican - will march with us. What would you do as mayor would to convince and encourage your Democratic colleagues to embrace the concept of human rights for everyone in the LGBT community?

Weiner: One thing I would do is make it kosher for all of my Democratic colleges by doing it myself. I don’t persuade Orthodox people in my district that I am right and they are wrong, but I try. More important, I go to them and explain to them that I am not going to talk past them on the issue, I am going to engage them. Sooner or later they are going to live in a New York City where gay marriage is not only legal, it is common, and they don’t even notice. It is just a matter of when that realization sets in. I honestly think one of the obligations of all of us in public life is to lead.

Don’t believe the hype. I am going to win in Staten Island. I am going to go out there and talk to them about the fact that Wal-Mart is offensive to the values of all New Yorkers. I am going to explain to those labor households that the way they got so comfortable in suburbia is because we supported the labor movement in this city and in this country. I am going to talk to them about how their president has left them behind. I am going to explain to them how they are less safe because of the cuts of the Bush administration. I am going to go right at them.

I don’t buy for a moment that it is going to be a Republican stronghold in the city of New York. I am going to win Staten Island, and some of that may be cause my name is Anthony, but that’s another story.

Q: I am the child of two Holocaust survivors. Ten years ago, the city spent $800,000 to build a holocaust memorial in Sheepshead Bay. Although it is dedicated to all of the victims, there were ten stones that were supposed to be inscribed to memorialize the homosexuals who died during the Nazi era. You happen to be listed on the board of directors of the group that has made that decision. If you are mayor can you get them inscribed? And what can you do in the meantime?

Weiner: I was a city councilman when it was created - all of the elected officials in the area are listed [on the board of directors]. And when this controversy first arose, I insisted upon the original plan. When it came up again, I believe I sent a letter again. I will ask the mayor. And I will ask that my name be taken off unless they do it forthwith.

Other Candidates Speeches

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

Academic Freedom, Intimidation, And Mayoral Politics: The Case of Rashid Khalidi


Disputes between students and professors at Columbia University over how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is taught have escalated into national news, with partisans on both sides claiming to fight on behalf of academic freedom and against intimidation.

Last October, aggrieved Jewish students put together a half-hour film called "Columbia Unbecoming" through a pro-Israel group based in Boston called The David Project. In the film some of the students describe conduct by professors at Columbia's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department that they felt constituted intimidation and smacked of anti-Semitism.

The accusations got much attention, in The New York Timesand elsewhere. One Israeli accused Professor Joseph Massad of asking him, "How many Palestinians have you killed?" Another student said she asked Massad whether it was true Israel sometimes give warnings before it bombs so that people wouldn’t get hurt, and the professor replied: “If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom!" The accused professors denied the incidents had occurred, or said the accusers’ versions were twisted beyond recognition.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger appointed a panel to investigate. In late March, the panel's reportfound that while no professor was guilty of anti-Semitism, student complaints about how they were treated when they dissented from a professor's view were not dealt with in a timely or thorough fashion.

One name not mentioned in the report, though, was Professor Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at the university. His was the one case that spread beyond the Morningside Heights campus into the city’s public school system and even into mayoral politics.

The New York Sun began this particular controversy on February 15, when it reported Khalidi’s involvement in a teacher training program on the Middle East for the city’s public school teachers. The newspaper said that Khalidi’s “professorship is named in memory of Edward Said, a divisive scholar, and is paid for in part with a donation from the United Arab Emirates,” and said that Khalidi had called Israel a “racist” state with an “apartheid system,” a charge Khalidi denies.

When the Sun contacted public officials for comment, Congressman Anthony Weiner(D-Brooklyn), a candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor, said : "For my money, this guy shouldn't even be teaching at Columbia, let alone being recruited to train our Board of Ed teachers.” (He told me later, though, that he had not said that Khalidi should be dismissed by Columbia.)

The case against Khalidi did not involve his conduct as a teacher trainer, about which nobody complained. In fact, Mark Wilner, an assistant principal at Midwood High School in Brooklyn who took Khalidi’s training course on the Middle East, later told the Forward that “his session was completely apolitical,” focusing on geography and demography.

Nevertheless, the day the Sun’s initial report appeared, Chancellor Joel Klein barred Khalidi from the teacher training program. “Considering his past statements, Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in a program that provided professional development for [Department of Education] teachers and he won't be participating in the future,” the Department of Education said in a statement.

Bollinger reacted to Klein’s action against Khalidi by pulling Columbia out of the training program for public school teachers entirely.

Khalidi himself e-mailed me that the teacher-training program “has been going on successfully for over 12 years. They have never paid it the slightest attention until the gutter press and publicity-hound politicians raised the matter…From his own statements, it is clear that Rep. Anthony Weiner has no idea what I have said or not said. This is no surprise if he relies on the gutter press for information about my views, as he apparently does. He has misrepresented and taken out of context what I have said, as have the trashy newspapers on which he relies for his ‘facts,’ and for publicizing his own outrageous anti-Arab statements.”

Weiner did not reply to Khalidi’s specific charges, but said, “you are perfectly free to say hateful things, but that doesn’t mean you are entitled to a city contract.”

When the Forward pressedWeiner to be specific about things Khalidi had said that troubled him, Weiner said, “I am by no means an expert on the guy’s work, but what I have seen anecdotally on this guy is troubling.”

When I did my own pressing, Weiner’s office e-mailed me three quotes they said that Khalidi made that the Congressman thought justified the professor’s dismissal by the Department of Education:

1) "Occupation and settlements are the basic sources of violence in this conflict, and only if they are ended can the violence be halted. It cannot be simpler than that,” Khalidi wrote for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in “Challenges and Opportunities” in 2002.

2) References to Israel being a "racist" and "apartheid" state. That America has been "brainwashed by Israel." (Interview for the Miami Herald, October 2000)

3) "For these American Likudniks and their Israeli counterparts, sad to say, the tragedy of September 11 was a godsend: It enabled them to draft the United States to help fight Israel's enemies." ("Attack Iraq: The real reasons" In These Times magazine, Jan 27, 2003.)

I was unable to verify the second quote from the Miami Herald and Khalidi has denied making any such statements. Indeed, he is quoted in the Forward as saying that there are “scholars who will not talk about these things without using the word racist, but I am not one of them. I do not think Zionism is racist. When we talk about some of the contemporary laws, there are policies that I consider racist and discriminatory.”

Asked if as mayor he would try to dismiss a teacher if he objected to his or her statements made outside of school hours, Weiner said, “if someone’s hateful ranting outside the classroom raises questions about his credibility in the classroom, the chancellor would have it in his rights to question his academic qualifications.” He added, “It is all of our obligations to find a balance between freedom of speech and our obligation to speak out when someone says something very hurtful or tries to intimidate students.” Elaborating on this idea at a conference at Columbia in mid-March on “The Middle East and Academic Integrity on the American Campus,” Weiner said that “free speech does not come without equal part responsibility. There is a rise of anti-Semitism that is almost indisputable on college campuses.”

Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, however, told the Forward, “It’s not as if we’re rejoicing that Khalidi gets an audience. But we don’t think the way to go about it is by treating Khalidi as if he is not qualified to teach on the Middle East.”

At a recent press conference outside the Department of Education, the New York Civil Liberties Unionwas joined by playwright Tony Kushner and some student leaders from Columbia to protest Klein’s dismissal of Khalidi.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “When a government agency seeks to punish or to retaliate against an individual based on the individual’s political views or association, which amounts to ‘viewpoint discrimination,’ [it] raises serious First Amendment issues.”

Kushner called Klein’s decision “shameless.” He said, “even if Professor Khalidi’s views resembled those that have been attributed to him by his critics--and they do not--firing a teacher on the basis of his or her political beliefs is impermissible. Chancellor Klein certainly knows this.”

Whatever Klein knows, he is not saying. The only response that the Department of Education would make to our inquiry on the Khalidi matter was the statement (without elaboration), “This is a matter of providing professional development for teachers who are instructing our children.”

If Khalidi were an employee of the public schools, it is extremely doubtful that the Department of Education would have any recourse against him whatsoever for expressing his views outside of school hours. As Ron Davis of the United Federation of Teachers points out, “our teachers are covered by the First Amendment. What a teacher says off school grounds when they aren’t working is strictly up to the individuals.”

But when you are dealing with non-government employees who either volunteer in the schools or do so under contract, it is a grayer area. The Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which did a lot of AIDS education in the schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was once banned from doing so by a vote of the Board of Education after one of their more sexually explicit brochures was discovered on a table at a school health fair.

But Khalidi was not accused of unbecoming conduct as a teacher trainer. The Department of Education is not revealing what regulations or standards he violated, if any.

Andy Humm is a former member of the City Commission on Human Rights. He is co-host of the weekly "Gay USA" on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (34 on Time-Warner; 107 on RCN) on Thursdays at 11 PM.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latinos and the Mayor



(L to R)Jose Serrano, Fernando Ferrer, Nydia Velazquez, Anabel Palma, Adolfo Carrión and Joel Rivera. The number of Latino officials in New York City is growing as Latinos make up a greater percentage of the city's population. But is there a Latino vote? What issues are Latinos concerned with?

The following is an edited transcript of “The Latino Vote and the 2005 Mayoral Election”, an event co-sponsored by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and New School University’s Milano Graduate School. It was held on February 16, 2005.

GABE PRESSMAN: One advantage of being around for a long time is that you get some perspective about both life and politics. When I was growing up in the Bronx, Ed Flynn was the Democratic boss and the Irish still controlled politics in all five boroughs. There was a need, said all politicians - especially those in power - for a balanced ticket. And a balanced ticket meant that the three citywide offices, mayor, council presidents and comptroller, had to be three different groups. Usually the mayor was Irish, and the comptroller was Jewish, because Jews were supposed to be able to handle money, and the council president could be anything, but preferably Italian.

For decades, this Irish-Italian-Jewish ticket was they way New York worked. But in recent years, Italians and Jews have won the mayor’s job; the election of David Dinkins as mayor made it clear that the old rules no longer apply. As Latinos and blacks demand their place in the New York power struggle, times may be changing.

Of course there are subdivisions within each group: There are Caribbean blacks and Southern blacks, there are all kinds of ethnic divisions within the Latino culture, and there are more and more immigrants coming from places like Asia.

I don’t see all of this as a prologue to divisive political warfare. Rather I see it as part of a never-ending symphony of changes. New York is a wonderful city, and it’s a marvel that we go on and we change and different ethnic groups take command.

We’re going to hear tonight from people who are, I hope, experts about the Latino influence in New York politics, and whether there’s a real chance of Latino/Latina mayor this year. I’d like to introduce the panel and then start out with that question.

First, there’s Juan Gonzalez, a columnist for the New York Daily News. He has won many awards and is considered one of the most prominent of all Latino commentators in the New York area.

Alice Cardona is the Hispanic liaison of the office of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan. She’s a trustee of the National Latina Caucus.

Angelo Falcon is a political scientist and president and founder of the Institute of Puerto Rican Policy.

Randy Quezada is the Civic and Electoral Participation Coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition.

IS THERE A REAL CHANCE OF ELECTING A LATINO MAYOR IN 2005?

Juan Gonzales

JUAN GONZALEZ:There most definitely is, and I think there was four years ago to some degree. Some would argue that the time wasn’t right for a Latino mayor, but it’s also a question of what are the policies of that particular person or anyone who is going to aspire for mayor in a city.

Four years ago Joel Siegel, the political reporter for the Daily News kept telling me: “Juan, Freddie isn’t even getting a high percent of the Latino vote. It doesn’t even seem like he’s getting much support in his own community; how does he expect to branch out into other areas.” I told him, “Joel, don’t pay attention to any of those polls. Most Latinos are not going to pay any attention to the race until a couple of weeks before the race happens. Then you’ll see an enormous shift right away.” It turns out that Fernando Ferrer got about 80 percent of the Latino vote in the primary.

The issue has always been how Latinos will turn out and vote. Over the last several elections, they have made up about 10 to 15 percent of the Democratic electorate. Last time around it was 25 percent.

To me, it’s all a question of paying attention to the changing nature of New York. If Latinos comprised 28 percent of the population in 2000, it definitely has to have passed 30 percent by now if not more. And it’s not only that, but because there are so many younger people who are turning 18 and being eligible to vote, there is huge growth potential in the Latino vote.

But that does not mean that all Latinos are going to vote for Latino candidates, or that the Latino candidate will do well among other groups, depending on who else is out there. It all depends on the policies that that person has adopted, the campaign that they run, the level of mobilization in Latino communities.

ANGELO FALCON: I think it’s important to say that what we’re talking about now is that we have a credible Latino candidate in Freddie Ferrer. Whether he’s going to win or not is another story. He’s got the name recognition, and that’s an important milestone for New York City. There’s this credible person who is getting support from a lot of different sectors. We didn’t have that before.

Ferrer has been talking about bringing back the whole issue of the two New Yorks. Let’s see how he does that. But as soon as anyone talks about linking it to anything racial he pulls back.

He’s also been talking about the plight of the middle class, fine tuning that message at the Drum Major Institute.

The Latino community should be asking tough questions like, “Who cares if he’s Latino? What does this person stand for?” We need to go beyond genetic politics.

If you look at the Quinnipiac poll Ferrer actually doesn’t do that well with Latinos. He gets 57 percent support in a match-up against Bloomberg, which is exactly the amount he gets from the black community. So I think the thing with Freddie in terms of energizing the base is that he may be falling into that Percy Sutton syndrome, where you had a black candidate, and the black community was not enthusiastic about him, and didn’t turn out in large numbers. Ferrer, right now, should be getting 80 or 90 percent in the polls from the Latino community, and he’s not doing that. So he has a long way to go, obviously. But it’s very early.

IS THERE A “LATINO VOTE”?

JUAN GONZALEZ: I think that there are two myths that need to be dispelled at the same time.

One is the myth that all Latinos are the same. They’re not: there are divisions based on class, nationality, and, most importantly, whether they are U.S.-born or whether they are immigrants.

There are major differences between U.S.-born Latinos and immigrant Latinos in terms of attitudes toward abortion and divorce, with immigrant Latinos much less accepting of either than U.S.-born Latinos. This breaks across ethnic groups within Latino community. So what that means is that the U.S.-born Latinos are being acculturated to a certain degree to American views or different American views from those of their immigrant parents.

While immigrant Latinos are more conservative than the U.S.-born Latinos on social issues they are more progressive on international issues, on the war, on U.S. policy abroad. Why? Because they have come from countries that have suffered from U.S. policy, and so they have a different attitude toward the U.S. role in the world.

For instance, the Pew Hispanic Center just did a very interesting poll that shows that immigrant Latinos are more opposed to the Iraq war than U.S.-born Latinos. With the lone exception of the Puerto Rican community - the Puerto Rican community is the most anti-Iraq war of any group. I think that has to do with the military in Puerto Rico and Vieques

There are also varieties based on class or nationality within the groups, so it’s a complex group. It doesn’t make for an easy read.

The other myth that needs to be dispelled is that there is not a Latino vote. All Latinos are united in that they don’t like to be disrespected; they don’t like their language to be unappreciated; they don’t like it when politicians don’t pay attention to their needs. So on those bigger issues of how they’re treated as Latinos within the U.S., they can suddenly all get fiercely nationalistic no matter from what nationality or group they’re from. And you saw that in the switch from Ferrer in the Democratic primary to Bloomberg in the general election. They were rejecting Mark Green because of that feeling of disrespect, of mistreatment of Ferrer.

Gabe Pressman

GABE PRESSMAN:They didn’t like the way Freddy Ferrer was treated by Mark Green. What’s your reaction to all this, Mr. Quezada?

RANDY QUEZADA: I felt slighted in 2001, and I actually did vote for Bloomberg although I am a registered Democrat, and I voted Democrat since I was 18. But [the fact that Latinos will stick together if they feel they are being disrespected] is really right on.

ALICE CARDONA: Another thing that nobody is looking at is the immigrant power that’s coming. People in our boroughs are registering new citizens. And we don’t know which way they’re going to fly.

ANGELO FALCON:The Latino electorate is changing. Everyone assumes it’s Puerto Ricans and it’s not immigrants, but that’s not true. There’s a Dominican population that is immigrant. It’s growing in numbers. I think that either at this point or pretty soon, they’re going to overtake Puerto Ricans as the biggest Latino group in the city, as Puerto Ricans begin to move out of the city.

In the Puerto Rican community there is a feeling that the community’s become invisible. Even though most of their elected officials are Latinos, there’s a feeling somehow that in terms of the popular community, in terms of the issues that are out there, those have become invisible, and it’s been creating competition where there isn’t really strong political competition between these communities

RANDY QUEZADA: There are distinct cultural and historic differences among Latinos. But I think it’s important to understand that there’s a distinction between an electorate and the people. I think as a people we’re very different: we have very distinct cultural backgrounds. But as an electorate, we live in the same places. My neighbors are Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Mexicans and so on and so forth. We all have the same problems with the schools, with access to the hospital, and so on and so forth. So as an electorate, we’re going to need the same things.

Immigrants aren’t aggressively targeted by the traditional political order in the city, so registration rates are lacking. But one thing that we do know is that when immigrants are reached out to, and they are registered, they actually turn out in higher rates than native-born population. At the New York Immigration Coalition we’re doing a lot of work to get a lot of people registered, and to get a lot of people educated on the issues, so that when they just see a Spanish name, they don’t think, “Oh, I got to go vote for that.”

HOW DO LATINOS SEE THE WEST SIDE STADIUM?

JUAN GONZALEZ: The stadium is not one of those issues that is going to fire up the Latino community. It’s a development issue, and development issues only attract the political class and folks concerned with economic development, even though these issues are immensely important. I don’t think it’s a major issue except to the level that people understand the simple things. When you’re putting all this money into a stadium, you’re obviously not putting it into education.

RANDY QUEZADA: I agree. It’s not a sexy issue for people that are worried about “am I making enough money to support my family? Is the school my kid is going to falling apart? Why is it overcrowded?”

ANGELO FALCON: This issue will not resonate unless you link it to something else, like the fact that Bloomberg is this rich guy who’s doing all these inside favors for his rich friends and avoiding accountability to the public. Some of the Democrats are going to have to make the case that this is a billionaire who’s not accountable to people. He’s accountable to his class, and that’s going to be to the detriment of working people. I assume that some of them are going to try to make that argument. So the stadium is a good case.

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT SPEAK TO THE LATINO COMMUNITY?

ALICE CARDONA: I am convinced that we completely moved out of the area of job training, job preparedness, and the questions of looking at really new industries, and the question of the kids and how are we getting them money. In school, kids are taking all these tests so they can pass them, but they are not getting ready for life.

Let’s deal with the issue of gay marriages. It’s an American issue; and it’s only one issue. Because Freddy Ferrer comes out and says he’s for gay marriage doesn’t make it the issue for us. What about the rest of what’s going on in this city? What about the economy? What about the education? What about health? Our people are dying of AIDS, and nobody’s really taking that on as an issue.

RANDY QUEZADA: Education, jobs, healthcare. A lot of people work in places where they don’t have health insurance to begin with, and then they have to use emergency room healthcare, which is not preventive care. It’s not the kind of care that would be the most appropriate for them and their family.

Children are not getting the kind of education that’s going to prepare them for life. Their classrooms are overcrowded; there’s a constant need for new classrooms. There is a great need for resources so the parents can be more involved in the schools and be able to communicate with their teachers and their children because a lot times you have the experience like I have of growing up where I had to be the translator for my mother.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There was an August 2003 nationwide poll of Latinos on what’s the most important issue to you and your family. The top three issues were:

 

  • 30 percent: jobs and the economy
  • 12 percent: education
  • 6 percent: immigration

 

Jobs and the economy was by far the biggest issue for Latinos nationwide because most Latinos are workers, and they are low-paid workers. The biggest thing that’s happened for Latinos in the last 10 years was the increase in the state minimum wage. That’s money in your pocket, something the government has done to help your situation.

I would say that in New York City, you also have a particular issue that has fallen off the chart for most of the people in the political class. What people have to pay for housing in this city is outrageous, especially if you are lower income. Public officials have stopped talking about it ever since Koch housing program a few years ago. That is something that is definitely affecting hundreds and thousands of Latinos. They are paying so much more money for housing now than they were before.

So the city’s focusing all this money on Manhattan development and not paying attention to the neighborhood commercial strips and centers except to build new big-box stores that are going drive all these small Dominican businesses out of business; I think the city is really hurting the Latino community.

Another issue is that as minority groups gain increasing power in municipal government, they find that this government has less power. Between 65 and 70 percent of New York City’s population is now African American, Latino or Asian. But political power is increasingly being removed from control of municipalities. The power is being stripped away by public authorities, by other off-the-book companies that are being established to siphon off public money from the regular budget that that mayor would control.

A savvy political leader has to wage a fight against suburban control, and domination and milking of the major cities. Major cities provide the jobs, the life and the culture, and everything else that the suburbs and the rural areas live off of. But then they’re being denied the proper resources to be able to function. Political leaders who are going to win the support of the population have to fight this New York City versus Albany fight, and versus the suburbs.

Angelo Falcon

ANGELO FALCON:I think we have to talk about these issues very differently. And that is that the idea of “what is the most important issue” doesn’t really resonate with our community. The reality of our community is that all these issues are important in the way they interact. We have to be talking about how education impacts on people’s ability to get jobs. How the job market affects people’s health. These things are all interrelated.

Something that is really important in the Latino community is our nationalism and our identification as a people. How we’re treated. The whole notion of how we’re treated in different places, the feeling of alienation from the political process, and the feeling also that we’re not being represented well is a serious issue.

For example, in the last year of the Giuliani administration, Latinos made up 18 percent of the people who worked for the City of New York. The latest figures for the year 2003, we make 16 percent. Our numbers dropped in city employment. Nobody’s talking about that issue and what it means. No one is talking about our participation in government. I’m not talking about jobs in general. I’m talking about administrative management jobs in the city government.

So what happens when certain issues -- the level of racial residential segregation, and all the poverty and poor health and poor education - do not get discussed? Freddy Ferrer comes up with a broad thing of two cities and most of us say, “Yeah, that’s right. There’re actually more than two cities. There are a lot of inequities in the city.” What happens? Well, someone says, “You’re being racially divisive, drop the damn issue.” So the issues that are important to our community become issues that are not legitimate to talk about.

But as this society treats Latinos and immigrants worse and worse, it actually motivates people to turn out and vote. It happened in California with [anti-immigrant governor] Pete Wilson - he got Latinos to vote in higher levels than ever before in reaction to that. So it’s kind of a funny process, but politicians make calculations for future voters.

Right now one of the big things that’s really holding people back is delays in getting people naturalized. That’s costing the Latino community, people who should be eligible to vote because the bureaucracy is taking their time.

But immigration is not a very positive thing to talk about. People are trying to criminalize it; they’re trying to make a serious problem. [In New York it is not as tough as other places], but it’s a tough issue. Many people separate it into two issues. They say there is the issue of immigration, which is really a federal issue that has to be debated. Then there is the issue of immigrant rights for people that are here at the local level.

You have people who are hardworking people that are here already. Why do you want to treat those people badly and create problems for them? Most of us in the Latino community talk mostly about defending the rights of immigrants that are here.

 

The Seven Year Suit; Also, Lynne Stewart's Conviction


A Manhattan jury finally heard the case of “Mark A. Taylor against New York University Medical Center and Peter L. Ferrara,” a civil rights case that had taken more than seven years to go to trial. The jury deliberated for just thirty minutes, and decided in Taylor's favor.

While there is no typical civil rights case, Taylor’s shows what a plaintiff sometimes has to go through to get his or her day in court and to prevail.

Taylor was working at New York University Medical Center as director of External Affairs in 1994 when his problem began. A biography of the late Leonard Bernstein was published describing Taylor as the maestro’s “last love.” It was passed around the office with the pages on Taylor marked.

That is when Peter Ferrara, a colleague, publicly called him a pansy and started making gay jokes, according to Taylor. (Ferrara, who is now director of public affairs for Yeshiva University, has denied Taylor's charges). "Every gay man has been called a faggot or a pansy," Taylor says. "I tried to make a joke about it to defuse a potentially volatile situation. I worked hard and kept to myself." But three years later, Ferrara was promoted to be Taylor's boss. Taylor was fired within months.

That’s when Taylor decided to go to court, charging job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has been illegal in New York City since 1986.

“Ninety-five percent of the cases are settled out of court,” said Michael O’Neill, Taylor's attorney. “If you have smart lawyers on both sides, they will be able to evaluate the case. In cases that don’t get settled, it is because one side is being unreasonable.”

New York University Medical Center strongly contested Taylor’s charges from the start, Taylor says, filing motion after motion. "They tried to beat me into a stump," he says. New York University spokesman John Beckman has said that Taylor’s claim was “baseless.” When the case finally came to court, the jury obviously disagreed. It awarded Taylor two million dollars in back pay, and for "mental anguish."

These seven years have not been easy for Taylor. After he filed his lawsuit, he says, "I started getting harassing phone calls at home. I don't know if it was anyone from NYU."

He also had trouble getting another job. "One of the consultants I hired for the court said that when you’re fired, you’re ‘damaged goods,’” he said. Filing a lawsuit against a previous employer can make potential employers wary of you.

“I had thousands of good working relationships after 15 years at NYU,” he said. After he filed the suit, “I found out about five of those relationships were real.” For a while, he worked for friends and took freelance assignments. “The theory is that it takes five years to get back on your feet. In five years, I went bankrupt." Today, he has "a very good job," he says, but "there is no describing the damage that you incur being in litigation when you’re out on the job market.”

Would Taylor go through this litigation again, knowing what he does now after seven years? “I don’t think so,” he replies. Taylor helped Bernstein through the last disease-ridden year of his life, saying that it included “the greatest highs and lows, but I would do it again in a minute. But this case? I’d have to think long and hard.”

Taylor doesn’t think New York University would today tolerate the kind of treatment to which he was subjected and had complained about. “They have to take legitimate complaints seriously,” he said.

But the case is not necessarily over; a spokesman for New York University says it plans to appeal.

O’Neill said, "I’m confident that we will prevail in the end. It is important for people who have had their civil rights violated to do right by themselves. Some people, however, walk away for good reasons. Suing a big institution is never easy. They have so much more in resources. It is ludicrous to say the plaintiff has the upper hand in these cases. People go through an awful lot.”

Lawyer for Terrorist Convicted of Aiding Terrorism

In one of the most closely watched cases in the city this past year, civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart was found guilty of “aiding Islamic terrorism by smuggling messages out of jail from a terrorist client,” the New York Times reported.

Stewart, who has represented many unpopular clients over the years, had been the lawyer for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. She is vowing to appeal and has set up a Web sitearguing her case and seeking support.

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, argued on the op-ed page of the Timesthat Stewart’s conviction was perverse, in part because it was based on a regulation issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft rather than a law passed by Congress. He sees it as a fundamental undermining of the principle of attorney-client privilege. The regulations give the government the right to eavesdrop on conversations between terrorist suspects and their lawyers.

New York Post columnist John Podhoretz titled his column after the verdict, “Lockin’ Up Lynne: Justice for an Evil-Doer.”

David Cole in The Nation magazineargued that while she violated an “administrative agreement,” Stewart committed no crime. “I think Stewart crossed the line from zealous advocacy to wrongful conduct. But she is no terrorist. At most she deserves a disciplinary proceeding before the bar.”

Stewart is free awaiting sentencing on July 15, which could put her away for 30 years.

Andy Humm is a former member of the City Commission on Human Rights. He is co-host of the weekly "Gay USA" on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (34 on Time-Warner; 107 on RCN) on Thursdays at 11 PM.  

Immigrants and Driver's Licenses


A 60-year old licensed asbestos remover who shuttled back and forth to the site of the World Trade Center as part of the cleanup effort, the father of an American born daughter who needs to be driven to the hospital because of her frequent seizures, a Barbadian immigrant who drives a delivery truck for a living -- these are examples of people whose driver licenses were suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For many undocumented immigrants, obtaining a driver’s license has become an almost impossible task ever since the department began a crackdown on giving driver's licenses to non-citizens who cannot provide satisfactory immigration documents. The policy was so controversial that it sparked ongoing litigation between New York State and immigrant groups.

“This is just one of the perils of living and working in this country,” said a Barbadian immigrant. “You never know when you are going to get hit by the authorities, and you are never quite sure where relief is going to come from.”

It all begin last Marchwhen the Department of Motor Vehicles began crosschecking drivers’ social security numbers with information at the Social Security Administration and found that some numbers were used more than 50 times. The department then sent out letters to 112,000 New Yorkers asking them to come in and explain why their social security numbers did not match. If they didn't report within 15 days, they risked having their licenses suspended.

Under a 1995 federal law, a Social Security number has been required to obtain a driver's license in New York City but up until last year applicants in New York would have to provide only proof of birth and several forms of identification or utility bills.

The crackdown has resulted in the suspension of the licenses of 7,000 immigrants but advocates said the number of immigrants affected could reach 300,000.

State Motor Vehicles Commissioner Raymond Martinez insisted that the policy is not targeting immigrants but added that the people who used fake immigration documents are subject to arrest and the immigration agency will be notified.

“As a home-owner and a mother of a four year-old child, driving is essential. I am not a terrorist, a deadbeat dad or a criminal,” Allie P told the New York Immigration Coalition. “If this measure was not intended for people like me, then why am I the target?”

Since last year immigrant advocacy groups have tried to raise awareness of the issue by organizing press conferences and protests. They also filed lawsuits against New York State.

One class action lawsuit was filed last summer by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. In February the case reached the New York State Supreme Court where Justice Karen S. Smith issued an injunction to halt the department’s crackdown.

Smith argued that the Department of Motor Vehicles is not authorized to enforce immigration law or to make rules without public notice.

“The judge’s order is temporary,” said El Diario editorial. “But we urge the state to abandon this flawed policy permanently.”

Less than a week later, New York State filed an appeal to the court’s order.

Joe Picchi, a spokesman for the department, has said that the appeal automatically cancels the restraining order and that the state will reinstate the requirement.

“It’s very frustrating,” Cesar A. Perales, the president of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the New York Times. “ I think it’s clear that they’re trying to avoid complying with the court decision.”

To make the matter more complicated, in February the U.S. House of Representatives passed a billto stop states from giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The bill will now go to the Senate and if passed, will be signed by President George W. Bush, who has said that he supports the bill.

Meanwhile, some immigrants, delighted by the short-lived court order, have gone to get their licenses renewed but many were turned down.

“This policy will make the roads less safe, just as license restrictions have done in other states throughout the country,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “Immigrants who need to drive to work will now face an impossible choice between breaking the law and make a living.”

An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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