Queens District Attorney Debate
Includes Video of Highlights from the Debate in Jamaica
In May I had the opportunity to attend the Queens District Attorney debate at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. It was the second event, featuring the candidates running for the Queens District Attorney's office, that I attended. This time I focused more intently how well versed each candidate was on the issues to be addressed by the person winning that position, and what qualifications, experience and vision they might bring to the office.
I have noted my first impressions below, which were gleaned while attending a forum in April, to which all candidates were invited to participate at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center. In the second debate, some of these impressions were altered and some of them were confirmed.
The photo above shows the two leading candidates [based on endorsements] running for the Queens District Attorney office - Melinda Katz and Tiffany Caban. The photo below shows the other two leading candidates running for the Queens District Attorney office - Gregory Lasak and Rory Lancman.
Tiffany Caban has, by far, received donations from more small contributors than any of the candidates. Melinda Katz leads in fundraising, with strong support from the real estate development community for which she spent years [2009 - 2013] working as a lobbyist.
Gregory Lasak and Rory Lancman have also been competitive fundraisers - but neither matching Tiffany Caban's small donor support, nor Melinda Katz's big donor support.
The following video captures about 17 minutes of highlights from the three hour long debate. I decided not to give equal time because many of the statements made were either repetitive or laden with platitudes. Thus former Justice Gregory Lasak and Public Defender Tiffany Caban received the most air time, as they provided real world anecdotes, as well as real world insights into how our criminal justice system functions and how it can be reformed.
Jumaane Williams Wins Public Advocate Election
Williams Bests 16 Other Candidates to Take Second in Succession to Mayor
Jumaane Williams appears to have won the election for Public Advocate. According to Ballotpedia, with 88% of the precincts reporting, Williams had received 120,000 or 33% of the vote.
The sole Republican, Eric Ulrich, received 70,000 votes or 19%, which was the second highest total of votes. The other Democrats included former NYC Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who received 40,000 or 11% of the votes, was followed by Michael Blake with 29,000 or 8%, Ydanis Rodriguez with 22,000 or 6%, Dawn Smalls with 15,000 or 4%, Rafael Espinal 12,000 or 3%, Ron Kim 11,000 or 3%, Daniel O'Donnell 11,000 or 3% and the others each had less than 10,000 votes with 88% of the precincts reporting.
Jumaane Williams is shown in the photo at right in June 2018, campaigning on the steps of the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan, for Lieutenant Governor. Williams lost that election in November, but quickly rebounded, winning the position for NYC Public Advocate in February of 2019.
According to a NY Times report Jumaane has eight months before he's up for election again, as this special election - to replace Tish James because she was elected NYS Attorney General - only lasts until the next regularly scheduled election. Congratulations Jumaane.
Public Advocate Election - Tuesday 2/26 - Please Vote
The New York Public Advocate election is tomorrow - Tuesday, February 26th.
The polling booths will be open from 6 am to 9 pm Tuesday.
To find your poll location click on the graphic above.
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Ballot Questions Tuesday
Most Pols Urge Folks to Vote Yes - I Respectfully Disagree
Tomorrow on your ballot you will find three ballot initiatives which appear designed to encourage participation in the electoral process. One pol informed me that NY State had the 8th lowest turnout in the nation in 2016 and these ballot initiatives are an effort to engage the public.
Most NYC public officials have come out in favor of the initiatives, with their rationale being that it will encourage participation by the electorate. While I applaud their initiative and efforts, I disagree with the specific proposals.
#1. Campaign Finance. To increase public matching from 6:1 to 8:1. To reduce the maximum campaign contribution from up to $5,100 for Mayor to $2,000 and from $3,950 to $1,500 for city council members. To reduce the requirements to qualify for those funds. And to make those funds available earlier in the campaign.
I like the idea of increasing the matching from 6:1 to 8:1 as an incentive to increase voter participation in elections. But that's where my support for this proposal ends. If my reading of the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2009 / 2010 in the Citizens United Case is correct that part of the ballot proposal is unconstitutional. While I don't know the specifics of how they've loosened the requirements to qualify for matching public funds or exactly how soon a candidate can access them - I've yet to hear of any major viable candidate complaining that their inability to qualify for or access public matching funds caused them to drop out of or lose a race. So making it easier for political candidates to obtain public money doesn't seem like a good idea to me - but I certainly understand why it would seem like a good idea to pols.
#2. A Civic Engagement Commission. To establish a civic engagement commission of 15 members, with 8 appointed by the Mayor, 2 by the City Council Speaker, 1 by each of the five Borough Presidents. The Commission Chair would be appointed by the Mayor and given a staff. The mission of this group would be to encourage civic engagement in the budgeting process by working with local groups and setting up translators at local poll sites.
How different is this from the role played by the Community Boards? The NYC.gov website states,
"The purpose of each New York City Community Board is to encourage and facilitate the participation of citizens within City government within their communities, and the efficient and effective organization of agencies that deliver municipal services in local communities and boroughs."
This seems redundantly bureaucratic to me. Instead of adding layers of bureaucracy, they should be working to make the existing government apparatus more meaningful and effective.
#3. Set Term Limits For Community Boards & Require Borough Presidents to Seek out Diversity. They want to limit Community Board members to four consecutive two year terms. And require Borough Presidents to seek out diverse people to serve as board members.
The only place I like term limits is in the Executive branch - because that's where most of the real power is vested. I don't like term limiting council members, assembly members, congress[wo]men or Senators because they are the locus of institutional knowledge. So I don't like seeing community board members term limited because they understand how the system works, and by the time the new ones move up the learning curve, term limits forces them from office, leaving those who lobby these groups with most of the control.
As for diversity - I'm all for it - but there are plenty of anti-discrimination laws already in place. At some point people have to begin to organize and stand up for themselves. Based upon the last eleven years of local reporting, the people of NYC appear to be pretty good at doing that. And if people feel they are being discriminated against, I suggest seeing a non-profit or for profit attorney about pressing your case.
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