New York Pushes Back Against Census Question

From the Morning Memo:

New York is among those leading a legal challenge to a new question on the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census that asks whether a person is a citizen.

Immigration advocates, as well as New York elected officials, fear the question will have a chilling effect on residents, documented or otherwise, leading them to not participate in the survey and resulting in an undercount.

The question is being challenged at the U.S Supreme Court.

“This case should be decided on the merits of the arguments and according to the letter of the law,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“I strongly believe that the facts and the record support our claims and am hopeful that the Honorable Justices will agree. At the same time, we cannot fail to recognize that—at the heart of this matter—there is more at issue here than just surveys and statistics. It is about how our government is organized, how power is equally divided, and how aid is distributed equitably.”

New York is already likely due to lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives, whose membership is determined by a state’s population, amid slow population growth over the last decade. The state lost two states after the 2010 Census.

But New York City especially has seen its population grow amid a surge in immigration in recent years. Nearly half of the workforce in New York City alone is composed of immigrant workers.

“Fundamentally, the decennial census is a measure we use to deliver on fairness, one of our nation’s core tenets. Fairness requires that assistance reaches those who need it the most,” James said in the statement. “It requires that communities have equal representation in government and that no group, or neighborhood, or individual is marginalized. Adding a question about citizenship to the census would lead to undercounting communities across America—particularly in immigrant and Hispanic communities.”

The state government is leading it a separate effort meant to ensure a fair count through the New York Department of State, with a task force holding meetings around the state on the issue.

Hoylman Wants Trump Tax Return Assist For Federal Lawmakers

From the Morning Memo:

A deadline set by Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee to turnover President Donald Trump’s tax returns was blown by the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

Sen. Brad Hoylman in a statement said that’s a sign New York elected officials should provide some assistance.

Hoylman is the sponsor of a bill that would enable the state Department of Taxation and Finance to provide the president’s state tax returns to federal lawmakers as part of their inquiring into Trump’s personal finances.

“By refusing to comply with the second request by the House Ways & Means Committee to turn over six years of his tax returns, Donald Trump is defying federal law,” Hoylman said. “This is nothing short of a constitutional crisis—but it is one that New York State can help avert. Washington has failed to give the American people the accountability they deserve. Now it’s time for New York to take the lead.”

Hoylman is the sponsor of several proposals meant to pry open the president’s tax returns. Trump has broken with the modern political tradition of releasing his tax returns to the public for review claiming he is under audit, though that does not prevent him from releasing them.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said state lawmakers should also be willing to make their tax returns public in order to make the provision as broad as possible should it be challenged by Trump.

Kim Urges Democratic Field To Embrace Student Debt Cancellation

Assemblyman Ron Kim on Tuesday in a statement urged Democrats running for president to back an effort to cancel student loan debt.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren this week unveiled a plan that would do so. Kim, a Democrat from Queens, has back legislation that would enable student loan debt cancellation on the state level.

Kim’s state-level bill would enable local governments as well as the state to purchase the debate and write it down.

“For months, I have pushed our federal government to take student debt cancellation seriously. Instead of continuing the status quo, a failing higher education market that puts millions of Americans in a lifetime of debt, I introduced legislation that would allow local and state governments to buy, write down, and cancel student debt,” Kim said.

“The federal government must also quell this crisis by not underwriting any more bad loans to private colleges, and revert back to funding tuition-free public colleges. Lastly, Congress must eliminate decades of bad laws that forbid student loan borrowers from discharging their debt through bankruptcy.”

Maryland’s O’Malley Endorses 311 In Suffolk

From the Morning Memo:

The pending 311 information system in Suffolk County has won the backing of Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The non-emergency alternative line debuted in Baltimore in 311, where O’Malley was then the mayor.

Suffolk County’s system is set to go live next month. The number is meant to provide information for residents by having a government contact to call that is not an emergency line and can reduce congestion for 911 call centers.

“There is a revolution going in American government today and it is being led by well-run counties and cities,” O’Malley said in a statement.

“It’s all about performance and delivery, treating citizens as customers, getting things done with greater efficiency and greater accountability. It’s really the heart of civic trust for municipalities to serve as the laboratories of innovation and 311 has become the gold standard for data-driven results. I commend Suffolk County Executive Bellone for embracing this model and it is my sincere hope that other counties in New York follow his lead.”

Suffolk County’s 311 system has won the backing of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Michael Balboni, a former top official in the state’s Homeland Security office.

Ramos Endorses Cabán For Queens DA

Queens Sen. Jessica Ramos on Monday endorsed Tiffany Cabán in the borough’s race for district attorney.

“I am endorsing Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney because she will bring the transformative change our criminal justice system needs to deliver real justice to our communities,” Ramos said. “Tiffany’s experience as a public defender has given her a first hand look into the ways the courts have failed, and she knows the work that must be done for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.”

Cabán, a public defender, is running in a Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Richard Brown. She faces Borough President Melinda Katz, Judge Greg Lasak and Councilman Rory Lancman.

“I am honored to receive an endorsement from State Senator Jessica Ramos,” Cabán said.

“An ever-present force in her community, she consistently centers the voices of the most vulnerable in her policymaking. In doing so, Senator Ramos has taken bold steps to decriminalize sex work, defend her immigrant constituents, and gain protections for day laborers and farmworkers. A staunch advocate for community-centered solutions to criminal justice issues, Senator Ramos knows that in order to create safe communities, we must treat violence as a public health issue. I look forward to working with Senator Ramos to ensure the safety and stability of every Queens resident.”

Heastie Endorses Katz For Queens DA

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday will formally endorse Melinda Katz for the Democratic nomination in the race for Queens district attorney.

“Over her 25 year career in public service, Melinda Katz has always been a committed advocate on behalf of the families in Queens she represents,” Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said in a statement obtained by Capital Tonight.

Heastie pointed to recent criminal justice law changes approved in Albany, such as ending cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

“I am proud to endorse her because she is the only candidate with the right kind of experience to implement the criminal justice reform measures the Governor recently signed into law,” he said.

“She has put forward a comprehensive agenda to change the District Attorney’s office and ensure justice for both victims and defendants. I’m confident that Melinda will usher in a new era of criminal justice reform as DA.”

Katz, the borough president, is facing a June primary against Councilman Rory Lancman, Judge Greg Lasak and Tiffany Cabán.

“Under Speaker Heastie’s leadership, New York has implemented critical reforms to our criminal justice system,” Katz said.

“Most recently, he helped pass landmark legislation ending most forms of cash bail, implementing discovery reform, and ensuring the right to a speedy trial. He has also been instrumental in passing new gun control measures and raising the age of criminal responsibility. But there’s even more work to be done here in Queens. I look forward to working with Speaker Heastie to bring about a new era of criminal justice in our Borough and I’m honored to have his endorsement.”

Bellone To Sign Restrictions On Straws, Ban On Polystyrene

From the Morning Memo:

Suffolk County is moving forward with new restrictions on plastic straws and a ban on restaurants from using polystyrene containers.

Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday will announce plans to sign those bills several weeks after the state Legislature moved to ban single-use plastic bags statewide and impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags.

“These latest measures cement Suffolk County’s reputation as the statewide leader in protecting our environment,” said Bellone, who is seeking re-election later this year. “I want to thank Legislator Hahn for championing this effort which will go a long way in protecting Long Island’s oceans, parks, and marine life.”

Bellone will sign a bill requiring restaurants provide plastic straws and beverage stirrers only on the request of a patron. The measure does not apply to pre-packaged individual serving beverages, like juice boxes, where plastic straws are included in the package.

It also does not apply to beverages bought at drive-thru windows.

Straws that are offered at restaurants and drive-thru windows, however, must be biodegradable or be able to compost. A customer with a disability or medical condition may be provided with a plastic straw if requested.

The restrictions will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The polystyrene or Styrofoam ban, will apply to restaurants, food trucks and stores in Suffolk County. The measure also bans the use of polystyrene packaging, like packing peanuts.

Rivera Endorses Cabán For Queens DA

Sen. Gustavo Rivera on Friday endorsed Queens Democratic district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán in her bid for the party’s nomination.

Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, praised her support for health access policies and criminal justice law changes.

“At a time where our State is working to reform our criminal justice system, we need district attorneys who are focused on more than their office’s conviction rates,” River said.

“Tiffany’s experience as a public defender and her deep roots in Queens give her a unique perspective on the practices currently in place that we need to change to put an end to the senseless criminalization of vulnerable communities. I am proud to support Tiffany Cabán as she runs to become the next Queens District Attorney and look forward to working with her as she enacts true change in our criminal justice system from the ground up.”

Cabán faces Queens Borough President Melina Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman and Judge Greg Lasak for the nomination. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced his retirement earlier this year.

“I am honored to receive an endorsement from State Senator Gustavo Rivera,” Cabán said. “As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Rivera understands the ways in which health and criminal justice are so deeply intertwined. He knows that unnecessary incarceration destabilizes communities and creates and reproduces unhealthy outcomes. I look forward to working with the Senator to find creative ways to offer support and stability to all Queens residents.”

NY-24: Conole Reports $100K Raised

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional candidate Francis Conole on Thursday reported raising more than $100,000 in the days following his entrance into the race.

Conole’s campaign said the majority of the contributions came from small-dollar donors.

“I’m deeply humbled by the outpouring of grassroots support in these first few days of our campaign, and I’m dedicated to using my experience, growing up in our community and serving our country, to find real solutions that support the people of Central New York,” Conole said.

Conole, a member of a prominent political family in central New York, is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Rep. John Katko in the Syracuse-area district. Dana Balter, the Democratic nominee in 2018, is also running again.

“Fundraising numbers like these in just four days is a clear indication that people believe it is time for new leaders in Washington and are ready to join Francis Conole’s mission to rebuild Central New York’s middle class,” said Will Van Nuys, Conole’s campaign manager.

Simotas Wants MTA Announcements In Multiple Languages

From the Morning Memo:

Time to translate “stand clear of the closing door” for polyglot New York.

Announcements on mass transit systems in New York City should be made in multiple languages in order to reach the more than 4 million residents who speak a language other than English, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas on Thursday told the MTA in a letter.

Simotas pointed to other cities like Paris, Belgium and Luxembourg with transit systems that have announcements in multiple languages.

“Currently, the MTA only provides automated voice announcements in English even though it is home to 1.9 million Spanish speakers, 419,000 Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, 186,000 Russian speakers, 106,000 French Creole speakers, 81,000 French speakers, and 200,000 New Yorkers who converse in an Indic language, like Hindi, Urdu or Gujarati,” Simotas wrote in the letter to MTA President Andy Byford.

“Providing announcements in multiple languages would eliminate confusion amongst the many riders who benefit from our transit system and would allow our system to run more effectively.”

In the letter, Simotas called on the MTA to devise and implement a plan for integrating more languages into the announcements.

“New York City is a melting pot oozing with culture and spirit and it is time that our transit system reflects that,” she said. “Now with new sources of revenue for the MTA capital plan lockbox and billions in additional financing support for MTA projects, it is the perfect time to finally create a multi-lingual transit system that better serves the riders.”

An economic report released this week by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found 42 percent of the workforce in New York City is composed of immigrants, who tend to have a lower overall unemployment rate than the rest of the city.