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Diversity, debt and debates

Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) outside her office in

Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) outside her office in Hempstead on June 26.  Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Darling's diversity dilemma?

The footage starts out featuring a typical statement from an elected official talking about support for marginalized communities. Then State Assemb. Taylor Darling begins speaking about languages.

"How do we have people who don’t speak English at all having successful businesses in our community," asked Darling, who is Black and represents parts of the Town of Hempstead."That is beyond me. I would not move to Italy right now and open a business but they can do that, people can do that and they embrace that and they encourage that and they make that possible but yet the people who built America can’t have businesses."

The appearance, video clips of which have recently been circulating on social media, took place in Albany at the height of the bail reform debate this summer. But it didn’t take long for Darling to receive some pushback. Fellow Democrat and Long Island Assemb. Phil Ramos was standing next to her, and he took off his facemask to offer a rebuttal: "We as communities of color should not be fighting each other for the piece of the pie."

Ramos, who is Puerto Rican, told the Newsday Editorial Board during an endorsement interview this week that he was "disturbed" and "offended" by his colleague’s remarks.

"The enemy of the African American community is not the Latino community," he said. He said he hoped Darling would "just reflect on her comments and perhaps express a little bit of atonement because these kinds of divisive things between people who should be totally united are counterproductive to both our struggles."

Darling told The Point the video was part of a political attack from Earlene Hooper, whom Darling beat in the 2018 primary. Darling said she embraces the immigrant community, is a dual citizen (of Britain, according to her website) and supported pro-immigrant measures like New York’s DREAM Act.

"I was not speaking about any particular group," she said. "I was just speaking about the system and how it is definitely designed for people of African descent who built this country to continue to be disenfranchised."

She said Black communities faced disparities that were different from those faced by immigrants.

"I have seen so much more support within immigrant communities and for immigrant communities to be successful, that I have not witnessed with my own two eyes, for people who are here, and have been here" for centuries.

The first-term assemblywoman said she wasn’t speaking about businesses in her district: "As far as my district goes, the business owners that are here that I have great relationships with, they all speak fluent English, and I love supporting them, and they love supporting me."

Constituent-wise, however, Darling appears to see the value of bilingualism. A call to her district office this week led to an answering machine that includes a message in English — and then Spanish.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Meeting needs in Hempstead

Convinced that during the pandemic every student needs a remote-learning device and internet access at home, the Hempstead school district has ordered 1,500 laptops and hot spots for students who have connectivity issues, at a cost of over $1 million.

Because the district, at the urging of state monitor and longtime Rockville Centre superintendent Bill Johnson, ordered traditional laptops it should have the equipment by early October at the latest.

Now the question is how the district will pay the bill. The answer may lie in the $133 million the Town of Hempstead received from the CARES Act.

Ever since Town of Hempstead Supervisor Donald Clavin received his embarrassment of riches, he’s been consistent on one message: He is going to be very careful about how the money is distributed to avoid any accusations of wrongdoing or potential clawbacks.

He vets every idea through his staff and a committee he has set up to evaluate requests, and he’s hired a Washington law firm to vet the legality of each ask. That process has slowed down funding for the Hempstead school district devices, but it may end up getting more students in more districts additional help.

"I want to fund this, but I want to do it right," Clavin said Tuesday. "And there is no historical pathway for this, no funding relationship between towns and school districts, and no way for me to evaluate the relative needs of different districts."

Clavin, considering this a DC funding dilemma, looked to the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer for help. Schumer’s people suggested the Nassau BOCES is the best body to evaluate and process school district funding requests, and offered to act as intermediary. Nassau BOCES Superintendent Robert Dillon was glad to help out. And Johnson thinks it’s the right way to go.

Now all concerned parties are looking to get together in the next week to move forward.

"Look, there are numerous districts in the Town of Hempstead that need help getting their students connected, and we have an understanding of those districts and countywide procedures that probably do make BOCES the right organization to handle these requests," Dillon said.

And what of paying for the already-ordered Hempstead school laptops?

"We went ahead and ordered them because we needed them no matter what," Johnson said. "We got some CARES Act money, though that only made up for what the state withheld of state aid to schools, and we found some other money here and there to make this order. But if we don’t get reimbursed by the Town of Hempstead, a lot of needs will go unmet, so we are really reliant on seeing the town, Sen. Schumer’s office and the BOCES coming together to make this happen."

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Tuesday's debate

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Quick Points

  • Media outlets around the country will be fact-checking in real time Tuesday’s debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Which is great, but it won’t do anything for the millions of Americans who are watching only the debate.
  • President Donald Trump was so thrilled with the reception he received in talking about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at a Pennsylvania rally that he said, "She should be running for president!" Well, she probably would have responded better to the coronavirus.
  • Demonstrators in London have been protesting COVID-19 restrictions even as infections in Britain rise sharply. Good to know the United States has no monopoly on that kind of behavior.
  • President Donald Trump’s aides are worried he hasn’t prepared enough for Tuesday’s debate against former Vice President Joe Biden. They’re worried, in other words, that Trump is being Trump.
  • Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, asked about Amy Coney Barrett joining the Supreme Court in time to rule on the Affordable Care Act, said, "Well, if it is thrown out, it will be months from the time the court hears it. We’ll have time to think about that argument and do something about it." Republicans have had a decade to think about replacing the ACA and have come up empty, what’s a few more months going to do?
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that Americans have Thanksgiving dinner only with people who live in their households. Sounds like another record will be broken — for most leftovers.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie