De Blasio's relationship with the NYPD receives harsh criticism
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s terrible political moment might be best summed up by a meme sent to The Point by one of the mayor’s former staffers.
It’s a picture of muscular multiracial male hands clasped together: “THE LEFT,” “THE RIGHT,” “CURRENT STAFFERS,” “FORMER STAFFERS,” “NEW YORKERS GENERALLY,” etc.
They’re all joined around the phrase “HATING BILL DE BLASIO.”
And once again, the drama is about the mayor’s relationship with the New York Police Department. This week, more than 500 current and former staffers and agency employees put their name to an astonishing open letter to the mayor, as first reported by the Daily News. The signers declared themselves “Outraged by the brutality perpetrated by the NYPD during the recent protests against police violence, and by the Mayor’s refusal to criticize the NYPD for that brutality.” The letter also called for the reduction of the NYPD budget.
On Monday, some of these disgruntled employees are organizing a Manhattan rally “as a followup to the open letter.”
They, like many of the New Yorkers in the street past curfew and those who turned their backs on the mayor at a Thursday memorial service, are demanding “systematic change.” Now that the anti-mayoral dissension is out in the open, even former top allies like Jonathan Rosen and former Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard are going after de Blasio on Twitter.
In rebuttal, de Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein sent a statement highlighting the mayor’s work in criminal justice areas such as stop-and-frisk, low-level marijuana arrests, having “outfitted every patrol officer with a body camera, reduced the jail population to its lowest since the 1940s, committed to closing Rikers Island” and “training every officer to recognize implicit bias — just to name a few. He has worked hand-in-hand with reformers to fundamentally change policing in this city and end the era of mass incarceration. And we’re not done.”
Perhaps the city workers who signed saw safety in numbers regarding job risks — and it’s always a little easier to criticize at the end of a term.
But Cristina Gonzalez, a former staffer who helped organize and draft the letter, thought people who signed could still face political consequences. She cited some individuals who signed before it was published but then backtracked, perhaps a sign of career-jeopardizing fears.
Unlike his early posture after the death of Eric Garner, this time de Blasio has largely remained supportive of the NYPD during the current upheaval. New York political observers know well the story of how affected he was by NYPD back-turning after the killings of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in 2014. He’s taking a different stance now, less critical of the NYPD. “I think his response this time is what he wished he'd given in 2014," one former de Blasio aide told The Point.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Long Island tries out the mail ballot
School budget ballots that were mailed out over the last few weeks to every Long Island voter are set to be tallied Tuesday, and this year’s process promises to be astonishing.
Voter participation could shatter records, but the budgets that result may bear little resemblance to what gets spent.
Unless the state gets a big federal bailout, a projected $13.3 billion deficit is going to set up state aid to schools for cuts of as much as 20%. Education officials say many district budgets may fail just because voters feeling the coronavirus pinch see a “no” vote as their only way to express financial fears and anger at high taxes. Muddying the picture even further is the fact that no one knows whether kids will even be back in the classroom come fall.
In 2017, school budget voting on Long Island hit two huge milestones, as every one of 124 budgets passed, and only 9% of eligible voters weighed in, down about 40% from six years earlier.
The 2% property tax cap passed in 2011 changed school budget votes dramatically, once districts realized how hard it was to get the 60% needed to raise taxes beyond the cap and mostly stopped trying. Most budgets now pass, and most voters don’t bother to weigh in.
In 2019, 123 of 124 passed, with the only loser being Wyandanch’s proposed 40.93% tax increase.
But this year promises to be different, education officials across Long Island fear.
“I’m hearing from superintendents that their budgets may be defeated,” Long Island Regent Roger Tilles told The Point. “People who’ve never voted in these elections before are sending in ballots.”
With time short until the fiscal year starts on July 1, most districts whose budgets are defeated will likely end up using last year’s operating budget.
In reality, no one knows how large a cut in state aid there will be, a fact the ease of a mail-in vote can’t help.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
A heavy cost
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Poll shows no clear front-runner in Democratic primary to replace LaValle
There’s new internal polling in the wide-open contest to be the Democratic State Senate candidate who will take on the challenge of stripping away one more suburban seat from Republicans. The opportunity came after the East End’s long-time GOP senator Ken LaValle said he would not seek re-election.
The poll commissioned by Skyler Johnson’s campaign shows there is not a clear front-runner.
The Johnson poll, conducted by the Honan Strategy Group on landlines and via robocall, found Johnson, a 19-year-old who graduated from Suffolk County Community College in May, with 14% of the vote, followed by Brookhaven Town councilwoman Valerie Cartright with 10%, Southampton Town board member Tommy John Schiavoni with 8%, attorney Laura Ahearn with 6%, and nurse and union organizer Nora Higgins with 2%.
The survey included 541 interviews of likely Democratic primary voters with a margin of error of 4.19%.
That puts most of those candidates within striking distance.
Robo polls are cheaper and quicker than live ones and sometimes criticized for not using humans to make the calls — Jonathan Yedin from Ahearn’s campaign called such polls “amateur.”
But pollster Bradley Honan said polls with automated calling like this one can avoid some biases that respondents sometimes exhibit during live polls, and the poll is scientifically sampled to approximate the likely turnout.
Whoever’s fully on top, one thing’s more clear from the poll: amidst pandemic and societal upheaval, more than a margin of error of people aren’t exactly following this primary. Sixty-one percent of likely primary voters are undecided.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano