Emboldened by Democrat Bill de Blasio’s decisive win in the mayor’s race, the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus today rolled out a new agenda and pushed Albany to “walk the walk” in passing progressive legislation.
Joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, the lawmakers pressed their case to nearly 250 elected officials, union members, and community activists seated in the auditorium of Baruch College.
“The old tribal nuances are no longer gonna work. De Blasio won by the largest margin we’ve seen in our lifetime. And he was unabashedly against stop-and-frisk, unabashedly dealing with the fact that he had two units in New York City,” Mr. Sharpton told the forum.
“Those that want to be timid, and that wanna walk on both sides of the street, are gonna get hit by traffic going both ways,” he later added.
The press conference began with the caucus chairman, Assemblyman Karim Camara, presenting a slideshow of a fairy tale featuring “Three Big Elephants”–former President George W. Bush, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Gov. George Pataki–who were once seen as promising, but ultimately could not solve the city’s biggest issues, including the education gap, the members charged.
Now, Mr. Camara said, the times have changed.
“As we’re finding out today, the people have risen and the people have said that we believe, that fundamentally, that government can and should do everything in its power to help the people that need it the most,” he argued.
The event was also intended to put Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate leadership–a bipartisan coalition that includes a handful of Democrats–on alert that the caucus planned to take a more aggressive role. (“I’m all for building coalitions but coalitions are based on agendas. Coalitions that do not have the agenda of those that are working class and those that are needy and those that are not getting their fair share—that is not a coalition, that’s a co-option,” said Mr. Sharpton.)
“Last year Albany certainly was talking the talk on the caucus progressive agenda,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who pointed to some progressive successes like gun control measures, but also some failures, including immigration reform, marijuana decriminalization, and a minimum wage hike that was not indexed to inflation.
“In short, Albany talked the talk of progressive agenda but did not walk the walk. What do we need to do this year? We can just talk the talk but we must walk the walk,” he declared.
To that point, the elected officials laid out an agenda focusing on a range of issues including passing the DREAM Act, increasing school funding, further raising the state’s minimum wage with adjustments to inflation, and protecting juveniles under the age of 18 from adult imprisonment.
“We must make it clear to people that they will not be judged on their sound bite, but they will be judged on what they do and who they align with when it comes to our interests,” Mr. Sharpton said.