Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Upper Manhattan Chooses Rangel (again)

The new Congressional District #13 in New York State includes all of Upper Manhattan as well as parts of the Bronx. Charlie Rangel won the Democratic nomination and is poised to continue his his service in Congress after 40 years as a member of that institution.

Rangel Wins

Charlie Rangel faced opposition from State Senator Adriano Espaillat and other candidates. Espaillat received a healthy 39% of the vote but was defeated by Rangel.

Rangel did not receive the endorsements of the major newspapers in our city, but he won the support of the people who matter most, the voters.

Rangel's victory is made even more special because it is the first time that his district includes parts of the Bronx. After decades of bringing people together, Charlie Rangel is now the political bridge that unites the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, communities dominated by people of color who live in residential neighborhoods that they love.

Espaillat's Future

Espaillat's state senate seat is likely now jeopardized. His candidacy seemed to be born as a result of a change in the calendar and a sense that he could run and lose without consequences. He may have miscalculated.

Espaillat challenged Rangel because the federal government forced New York State to hold its federal primaries earlier as part of a demand to allow military families living outside of the US to have an opportunity to participate fully in the electoral process. Traditionally, primaries were held in the first half of September in New York State. This year, the New York State primaries for state and local offices will occur in September, but the federal primaries (U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives) took place today.

While Espaillat was unsuccessfully challenging Rangel, Guillermo Linares, the first Dominican American elected to a major office in the United States (as well as former member of the New York City Council and a current member of the New York State Assembly), announced his desire to defeat Espaillat in the September primary for Espaillat's state senate seat. Linares endorsed Rangel and was seen at Rangel's victory party tonight. Linares is a heavyweight legislator with an impressive record. Linares has also earned the support of most of Rangel's key supporters.

In addition, Assemblyman Linares' daughter, a long-time star in the Democratic Party in Manhattan, has begun the process of working to replace her father in the New York State Assembly as he works to move to the New York State Senate. Mayra Linares was a district leader in Upper Manhattan for many years before joining the administration of Governor Cuomo, and she will start the race as a leading candidate with an impressive biography.

So, we will have at least two very exciting and important races in Upper Manhattan in September for positions in the State Legislature. We hope that the September primaries end with two victors named Linares just as tonight ended with a very satisfying and telling victory for Upper Manhattan's political leader, Charlie Rangel.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vote Tomorrow - Cuomo Backs Rangel

Every Manhattan resident who is eligible to vote must vote tomorrow. Don't let the day pass without having your vote counted. As election day approaches, Governor Andrew Cuomo has endorsed Upper Manhattan's Congressman, Charlie Rangel, for re-election.

Leave No Voter Behind Tomorrow

As we said in 2008:
It has long been a cliché to many, but it is a truth that one cannot ignore. For many of us, our ancestors died to give us the right to vote. To squander that vote or to relinquish it because of inconvenience would be obscene, whether we have faith that our individual votes will shape the outcomes of elections or not. Because the 15th Amendment (1870) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were victories secured by the blood of our ancestors, every election day is a sacred day, and we show our respect for those who made our votes possible by going to the polls and by encouraging everyone we know to join us in that sacred activity - tomorrow and every election day of any sort.

Governor Cuomo for Rangel

Late last week, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a thorough endorsement of Upper Manhattan's Congressman, Charlie Rangel.

Governor Cuomo stated:
"He’s been very good at bringing things back to the state of New York, which is a big part of what the Congress does. I think he is best suited not just for the district, but for his state. His seniority is a major asset for this state.” 

Cuomo also endorsed Hakeem Jeffries for a key Brooklyn Congressional seat and opposed the Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership by backing Rep. Nydia Velazquez in her primary fight against City Councilman Erik Dilan.

Manhattan Will Win

If we vote, we win. The only way that Manhattan can lose the election tomorrow is if we fail to vote.

Monday, June 18, 2012

NYC Police Applaud the Killing of Unarmed Youth

Our city's disgust with the behavior and practices of police officers in our city reached new levels as our city's police force engaged in a thoroughly horrifying standing ovation for the killer of an unarmed Bronx youth.

Ramarley Graham

The unarmed young man, who lost his life because our city's police are seeking to subdue and eliminate black residents rather than protect us, was named Ramarley Graham. He died in his own bathroom when he was shot by an NYPD officer who had stormed into the building by ordering other residents, at gun point, to step aside and let him in.

Footage from private surveillance cameras shows Graham walking into his grandmother's apartment building, a three-story home on a residential street.
Police officers, guns drawn, quickly follow and attempt to kick down the front door after finding it locked. In the back of the building, other officers swarm in through a rear apartment. The cameras do not capture what transpired inside, but officers quickly entered Graham's grandmother's apartment on the second floor. They did not have a search warrant.
The large number of officers at the house indicated that Graham wasn't likely to escape and that officers could have waited to obtain a warrant before storming the apartment.
Graham's death has resulted in a civil case against the NYPD by his family and neighbors. In a sign of how the NYPD treats its law-abiding citizenry, the landlord was abused after Graham was killed.
The gunshots brought the landlady, Paulet Minzie, 55, out of the shower and down the stairs from the third floor, with only a towel covering her below the waist, the court papers say.
“Police screamed at her causing great alarm,” the notice says. “Ms. Minzie immediately retreated up the stairs toward her apartment, trailed by the two officers who had just been searching for (and killed) Ramarley Graham.
As Ms. Minzie reached the threshold of her apartment door, police ordered her to put her hands up and put a gun to her head,” the papers say. One officer kept the gun to her head until she told him there were surveillance cameras operating, she alleged.
“[He\] immediately lowered his weapon. His demeanor completely changed, and he alerted his colleague that they may be on camera,” the papers say.
Cheering the Killing of Unarmed Black Youth
NYPD Officer Richard Haste killed Ramarley Graham. After he entered a not-guilty plea in a Bronx court, he was given a loud standing ovation by members of the NYPD.
The next time that the Mayor claims that the killings and abuse of people of color in our city at the hands of the NYPD is a coincidence, I want him to be reminded that no one has ever cheered a cop killer. The cops, when they are the murders, cheer the murder. Officers who have shot unarmed Black youth in the back have been named "officer of the month" and have had both their bail and their legal expenses paid for by the police union.

We need the Bloomberg years to end today. Too many deaths. Too much abuse. Bull Connor is not a good model for a NYC Mayor. Let's turn the page and end the Apartheid era in NYC.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 17 March to End Stop and Frisk in NYC

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, recently discussed the upcoming June 17 march in NYC in opposition to stop and frisk in The Root.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently made a disturbing revelation about the New York City Police Department's policy of stopping pedestrians and forcibly searching their bodies for weapons. He revealed that police do not actually expect to find any weapons.

Stop and Frisk Is Racist, Abusive, and Ineffective

In the wake of new data showing that New York City's stop-and-frisk encounters turned up one gun every 3,000 stops (or 0.03 percent of the time), Bloomberg compared the policy to a highway sobriety checkpoint. He argued that the program acts as a deterrent to crime, so it cannot be judged by its rate of success.

But for the majority of people who walk away without a charge, the experience serves only to undercut trust in the police who are sworn to protect them. The experience is an invasion of privacy, a humiliation and a stinging reminder of how police resources are being diverted away from solving homicides, rapes and other violent crimes to support an ineffective and racially biased practice.
Comparing police officers to officers at a checkpoint is both dangerous and misleading. Sobriety checkpoints are legal only because they are entirely random: Police must stop every car or every second, third or fourth car, and so on. This prevents any danger of profiling drivers based on stereotypes of race, gender and ethnicity.

With stop and frisk, there is no such mechanism in place. More than half of the stops in 2011 were justified in police ledgers as a response to "furtive movements." This ambiguity leaves little room for accountability at any level and significant room to illegally profile.

A recent New York Civil Liberties Union report showed that 87 percent of those stopped by the NYPD were African American or Latino, even though those groups were less likely than whites to be found with a weapon. Ninety percent of African Americans and Latinos stopped were innocent of any legal infraction.

There is no reason that people of color need more deterrence than any other racial group in the city. It would seem that the NYPD is trying to instill more fear in one section of the population over another -- a demographic that has less political clout and less means to defend itself from bullying.

Stop-and-frisk policing is, in fact, counterproductive. A healthy police force should be modeled on the image of a police officer walking the beat and interacting with neighbors. But in many New York City neighborhoods, residents live in fear of officers. Between those who get stopped, those who know someone who got stopped and those who read about racial disparities in the newspaper, the program erodes trust in police officers and destroys the valuable relationships between officers and the communities they serve.

Other large cities are effectively cutting crime without resorting to stop and frisk. The violent-crime rate fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, but it also fell 59 percent in Los Angeles over the same time period, 56 percent in New Orleans and 49 percent in Dallas. In these cities, community policing and data-driven methods have proved effective in rooting out crime.

March in NYC to Protest Stop and Frisk

This Father's Day, the NAACP and other civil rights activists, civil liberty advocates and community members will march silently down the streets of New York City to protest stop-and-frisk policing. The tradition of silent marches for civil rights dates back to 1917, when W.E.B. Du Bois and the 8-year-old NAACP marched through New York City to protest lynchings, segregation and race riots in the South.

Silence is a powerful force that, like other forms of nonviolent protest, holds a mirror to the brutality of one's opponents. On June 17 we will hold up a mirror to New York City's stop-and-frisk policy. For more information about the event, visit silentmarchnyc.org.

The NYPD is stopping New Yorkers at higher levels than at any time in the city's history. As the number of stops continues to grow, it will seem more and more as if the NYPD has set up a checkpoint on every corner. That would be an unwelcome development for the nation's most diverse city.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sugary Drinks Take Center Stage (Again)

Mayor Bloomberg is tarnishing his admirable record on nutrition by focusing on attacking sugary drinks rather than educating the public about proper nutrition.

Soda Tax Efforts

In 2009, Governor Paterson  proposed an 18% tax on sodas and sugary drinks with less than 70% juice, but he was unable to get the support he needed in the State Legislature to get his proposal enacted. Paterson attempted the tax again in 2010 with a somewhat different approach, but the result was the same. Paterson seemed to be searching for revenue and chose soda as a convenient "sin tax" target.
Paterson is likely the most progressive Governor in the history of our state, but he seems to be willing to ask the poor to fund his budget gap because the gap is so large. A soda tax would take a far larger share of income from poor and low income New Yorkers than from those more fortunate. It is a classic regressive tax, and unlike cigarette taxes, it cannot successfully be defended on the basis of a claim that soda consumption is uniquely dangerous or unhealthy.
The current Bloomberg effort is not designed to create revenue but rather to reduce obesity and calorie consumption.

As we stated in 2010:
Soda is singled out for taxation on the basis of its contribution to obesity, but candy bars, cakes, cookies, pies, and ice cream would not be affected. Can anyone argue that we should encourage New Yorkers to eat more candy bars and ice cream but drink less non-diet soda as our strategy for reducing obesity in New York? Even amongst drinks, soda is not the worst offender. Soda and orange juice have approximately the same amount of sugar. Grape juice has 70% more sugar than soda. If it is sugar consumption which we want to reduce, we should tax grape juice as well as candy bars and ice cream before we go after soda.
Now, the inconsistency and flaws related to targeting soda have returned in the Bloomberg proposal to limit the size of sugary drinks sold to the public by certain establishments.

Bloomberg Attempts to Ban Some Sales of Large Sodas

We have complimented the Mayor on his health initiatives, and we continue to see his interest in improving health statistics as genuine. But, his most recent health initiative fails the common-sense test of whether the goal and the initiative match. Bloomberg's proposal would ban the serving of any sugary sodas (but not fruit juice, milk, and other sugary beverages) of more than 16 ounces at our city's restaurants, bodegas, and other establishments. There would be no ban on serving multiple 16 ounce sugary drinks to the same person.

Not only does the ban miss 7-Eleven, Duane Reade, and Rite Aid, it misses grape juice, orange juice, and milk. It misses milk shakes, Jamba Juice, and smoothie shops. It misses donuts, ice cream, pies, cakes, candy bars, and ICEE's. It is soda-centric instead of calorie-centric or health-centric.

Instead of banning large drinks, Bloomberg should encourage education and knowledge as he did with calorie counts at restaurants. Ultimately, the public will make its choices. He can help the public make better choices by providing information and support.

The experience of Prohibition tells us how much the public will resist bans. Moreover, Bloomberg's approach will send consumers to 7-Eleven and away from other establishments.

So, Bloomberg is wrong on this one, but he should continue to advocate for better nutrition for New Yorkers (and he should stop his advocacy of the white supremacist policing strategy that has dominated his time as Mayor).