Recent Political Action
Civic Minded Two with Diana Richardson
On February 23 Diana Richardson held her second Civic Minded meeting for her constituents. The format of it was similar to the one in January; she published an agenda and made sure to cover everything in it in the two hours allotted. If last month the theme had to do with the many aspects of legalizing marijuana, this month she focused on how the legislature passes appropriation bills, but the state drags its feet in actually releasing the money. On issue after issue she told how bills had been passed but no money had been released. On housing, there is $563 million to build affordable housing; there is money for violence prevention, clean energy, youth development, job creation, and improved medical care. In each of these areas, money has been set aside. There have been press conferences and media coverage suggesting that important programs are being created, but in fact the money is being held up by the state. Richardson said she refuses to participate in any of this publicity until she is sure the money is about to be made available. She also told how certain districts are very good at getting money released. Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights are expert at getting their share of the money because they have lobbying machines that are very effective. Other districts like Crown Heights, East New York and Bed-Stuy do not have the same ability. The rich predominantly white neighborhoods get what they want, and the poorer predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods do not. She gave out the number of Chelsea Muller, Cuomo's chief of staff and encouraged the people at the meeting to pepper her with phone calls and e-mails asking that the money that has been appropriated be released.
Richardson spoke about other issues as well. She praised several politicians whom she said are doing a good job and deserve support. She noted that Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez has been widely attacked by the media so that she will look like a fool. Fox News in particular has gone after her, discussing what she wears, what she eats, and how she dances. Richardson said that the congresswoman has fought back very well making fools of those who denigrate her, and she told her constituents to always question why the media covers certain people and ask why they give the coverage they do. She said that she herself had been the victim of several attacks. Someone came to one of her meetings and tried to make a video of her secretly. She said she had received threats many times and added that she keeps a file in her office of what to do if she dies suddenly or disappears. She also spoke in favor of Jumaane Williams for Public Advocate. In her opinion he is someone who has proved himself and she told her audience to be wary of a newcomer with little record. Finally she allowed two candidates for judgeships to make presentations though she was careful to say that she was not endorsing them herself. “Hear what they have to say,” she told her audience.
Again she spoke about the importance of being active and asserting pressure. When a woman said she did not feel comfortable calling a stranger to demand things, Richardson said that that is something that has to change. Politics works by pressure and that is all the more the case in the 43rd Assembly District that does not align with other entities, not community boards, not police precincts, not political districts such as the city council or the state senate. She told the group that her meetings are the only ones for the 43rd District itself and that it is up to people in the district to make things happen. She closed by reiterating that people should call Muller, “Tell her that Diana Richardson said to do it.” And then she added, “Let me know when have called someone or e-mailed.” The meeting came to an end just as an officer looked in the auditorium to let everyone know the time was up.
– John DeWind
The Public Advocate Election
On February 26th the vote for Public Advocate took place and Jumaane Williams won big by percentage, 33% in a field of seventeen with his closest competitor being Republican Erich Ulrich, who won about 15%. Ulrich ran on the issue that it was a mistake to let the Amazon deal slip away. Not everyone agrees that it was worth any price to have the company in New York. Williams focused on criticism of Bill DiBlasio for not doing enough to create low-cost housing.
Williams was the only candidate to break out of his home base. Except for Staten Island, he had significant support in every borough, and Brooklyn, the most populous borough came through for him with large majorities. In seven Assembly Districts in central Brooklyn, he had the majority of the votes including the 43rd represented by Diana Richardson, who, at her Civic Minded meeting on Empire Boulevard on February 23rd advised her constituents to vote for Williams. At his victory party many luminaries of the Brooklyn Democratic Party showed up to congratulate him, among them Laurie Cumbo, representing the 35th Council District. In a video she spoke about how Williams could bring together all the different groups in New York.
Voters were not distracted by last-minute reports that Williams was arrested after getting into a fight with his girlfriend. No charges were made and the arrest record was supposedly sealed but then somehow got unsealed. This is the creepy politics of gossip and whispering behind people's backs. It has nothing to do with the important issues that face New York. At his victory party Williams emotional telling about his work in therapy and his sympathy for those suffering without a voice.
He will face a primary in June in order to keep his position. Many commentators have pointed out that with only 400,000 people voting in the special election, the June primary could turn out differently. However, Williams has taken a big step forward towards securing a full term as Public Advocate.
– John DeWind