Electoral Reform in Albany + The Queens DA Race

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Local News:

  • With Democrats now in control of both the New York State Assembly and the State Senate, the Legislature is ready to pass a series of bills aimed at electoral reform. The bills would include early voting, mail in voting, closing the LLC loophole, pre-registration of 16 & 17 year olds, and a consolidated primary schedule. Not included in the package is any restoration of voting rights to people on parole, automatic voter registration, or more flexibility for voters to switch parties.
  • Although the number of marijuana arrests dropped significantly over the past year, the racial disparity in arrests remains high. Nearly 90% of people arrested for smoking marijuana in 2018 were black or hispanic.
  • Mayor De Blasio announced a flurry of new initiatives leading up to and during his State of the City speech on Thursday, including:
    • A plan for comprehensive health care for all New Yorkers. The plan, called NYC Care, would use an enhanced version of MetroPlus, the City’s public insurance plan, as well as NYC Health + Hospitals for those who are not eligible for insurance. The plan would include New York’s undocumented residents.
    • His support for Council Member Jumaane Williams’ (District 45, Flatbush) bill to guarantee two weeks of paid vacation to all New Yorkers who work at private companies with over five employees. If passed, de Blasio will have mandated paid sick leave and paid vacation time for nearly all New Yorkers.
    • A program to give free eyeglasses to all kindergartners and first graders who need them,
    • And an ambitious program of bus lane expansion, signal priority, and enforcement to speed up buses over the next two years, after largely ignoring declining bus service throughout his term.
  • Gotham Gazette has a roundup of the contentious issues that the Mayor ignored or glossed over during his speech, including Amazon, NYCHA, the homelessness crisis, and police accountability.
  • On the heels of these announcements, De Blasio is planning a nationwide trip to promote his “progressive agenda,” leading to increased speculation that he will soon announce a presidential run.
  • Governor Cuomo told reporters that the MTA needs to be “blown up.” After his pre-emption of the Authority’s long-discussed plans for the L-train shutdown showed his power over the MTA, he insisted he needs more power over the MTA.
  • City Councilman Brad Lander (District 39, Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens) has started a petition to bring ranked choice voting to NYC, with the widely-contested Public Advocate special election as a backdrop.


  • Richard Brown, who has served as Queens DA since June 27, 1991, has finally announced his retirement at the end of his term this year. Brown was seen as a “tough on crime” district attorney, and his retirement opens up an opportunity for a reform candidate to be elected this November. DSA’s Queens Electoral Working Group is holding a candidate forum this Thursday, January 17 in Jackson Heights. RSVP here.
  • In the crowded Public Advocate race, City Councilman Jumaane Williams is leading in number of endorsements, by a wide margin.

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