As usual, the news keeps happening. From international relations to the end of MetroCards, there’s something happening everywhere this week.
But, if just reading isn’t enough, there’s a great event which makes it easy to DO something! New York’s first ever Civic Fair is NEXT WEEK on Saturday, April 7. Civic Fair’s are a one-stop shop for engagement. Dozens of groups have signed up to meet the public and collaborate with each other. Come by and find all the ways you can get involved!
Census Adds Question Asking About Citizenship
The U.S. Census Bureau added a new question to their survey asking whether or not respondents are citizens, and specifically which members of households are citizens. Just a short time after, dozens of states filed lawsuits against the Bureau. The lawsuit led by California claimed that the question is unconstitutional and should be left off the census. The ramifications of a citizenship question on the census could be major.
With Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign, critics are concerned answers to the question could be used for immigrant deportation. The question could also hurt localities which are home to a large immigrant population, leading to a low response rate from residents due to fears answers will be used against them. This, in turn, could dramatically underestimate the size of immigrant communities. Since redistricting is explicitly referenced in the US Constitution as counting residents, not citizens, and apportioning political districts based on that count, turnout affects which areas get the most seats in Federal and local government. The population count also determines allocation of government resources with more populous areas receiving more funds.
If the 2020 census fails to accurately assess the number of americans in the country and where they live, representation in Congress could be further skewed to benefit one party for the next ten years.
The Trump Budget, Democrat-Lite?
Though Obama is out of office, his influence and budget policy initiatives are still felt. On Friday, Trump signed off on $1.3 trillion budget. Many of the proposals included in the budget are similar to what Trump’s predecessor asked for.
The Department of Health and Human Services received an influx of $78 billion, while the Obama administration asked for $77.9 billion, nearly identical. The Department of Labor and Department of Education received $1.5 billion more than what Obama requested, and initiatives like Head Start and Pell Grants received raises as well.
Trump’s heated campaign rhetoric drew criticism for proposing to eliminate federally funded programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. None were eliminated. Instead, programs such as TIGER grants, an infrastructure grant program, was funded for $1.5 billion. Another program, the Community Development Block Grant, a federal housing grant program, $3.3 billion or a 10% funding increase.
This injection of spending not lost on conservative. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky claimed that Obama could have written this bill and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused his own party of hypocrisy “Every Republican would have voted against this disgusting pork bill if a Democrat were president.” Trump also largely agreed with criticism of the bill, saying he was forced to “waste money on Dem giveaways” in a Tweet Wednesday.
In response to spending he didn’t like, Trump threatened a line-item veto for next year’s spending bill if he didn’t get what he wanted. Ironically, he is now pressing for the Pentagon to fund his billion dollar border wall with taxpayer money and is throwing $30M at his Veteran’s Day military parade.
China Gets In on North Korea
Since virtually day one of the Trump administration, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have been going head-to-head in heated exchanges. Leading policy experts and analysts become extremely worried about the level of rhetoric between the two leaders, so much so they feared it could lead to war. The recent tone has changed a bit though. Since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, tensions seem to have eased. North Korea was able to send athletes to the games, and they marched alongside the South Korean athletes under a unified flag.
All this lead up to a super-secret visit by Kim Jong Un to Beijing, the leader’s first ever visit outside of North Korea since taking power. After initial reports Kim was in China, on Wednesday media outlets confirmed Kim was meeting with Chinese leaders. The outcome of the Beijing meeting effectively swung influence on any North Korea-U.S. talks into China’s lap.
But with the appointment of new National Security Advisor John Bolton, there’s a risk things could fall apart as soon as they came together. Bolton’s hard line stance and anti-diplomacy rhetoric have upped the odds a meeting could fail, especially given he recently penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal defending a first strike against the North. Trump, however, is still optimistic a meeting is possible Tweeting that there is a “good chance” it will take place.
Later reports indicate China claims North Korea has agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Reports maintained the agreement was reached in accordance that China pledges to uphold their relationship with North Korea on the world stage.
In between National News and Local News are things YOU can do to impact the National dialogue right where you live. This week I’d like to highlight two upcoming events which I feel deserve your attention. Like this new section? Let us know!
The Event: New York Civic Fair
A fair for activists and volunteers with over 35 groups working to change politics. To facilitate connections between organizations and volunteers, each group will be given a spot where they post their current focus, geographic coverage and level of commitment they’re seeking from volunteers.
Why It’s Worth It: It's tough trying to find the perfect place to volunteer. Groups start, they stop and commitment levels can be hard to get right. The Civic Fair one-stop shop for activists. Dozens of groups have signed up to meet volunteers and collaborate. Come meet them and find the perfect fit for you!
The Ask: Attend and share the event with friends! Come meet the groups, see what they’re up to and learn about getting involved!
Saturday, April 7
1pm - 5pm
ThoughtWorks, 99 Madison Ave. 15th Fl
State Budget Nears Completion
As the deadline to pass the state budget looms, the Governor and state lawmakers are fervently negotiating behind the scenes. Many key policy initiatives like funding for the MTA, NYCHA and other programs will be included. But it’s not proving simple to resolve some complex issues. Cuomo is in an election year facing a Democratic primary challenge, while also attempting to elect two Democrats to the State Senate.
NYCHA has recently faced controversial claims of mismanagement that have sparked calls for the NYCHA Commissioner to resign. However the new budget proposal includes a $250 million ask meant to speed repairs, and a state emergency declaration that would hire a private company for the repairs. This so-called design-build authority is controversial because it cedes responsibility for repairs to the state, essentially undermining Mayor Bill de Blasio’s authority on the matter.
The MTA has also created a major rift between Cuomo and de Blasio. In order to help fix the subway system’s many problems, Cuomo has proposed “value capture” zones which would use property tax revenue to fund the MTA. De Blasio maintained a more conservative approach to the proposal, and criticized value capture zones saying it would allow the “MTA the power to raid our property taxes.”
In the middle of this debate for MTA funding, MTA Commissioner Joe Lhota, a Cuomo appointee, proposed $836 million funding initiative to fix the subways. Cuomo agreed to fund half the plan while calling on de Blasio to fund the other half. The mayor refused. In the state budget proposal, the Governor included $429 million for repairs while the Assembly plan allocates $490 million to the MTA. The Republican-lead Senate does not include plans to fund the MTA in its’ budget.
Other plans to allocate spending towards hot-button issues and programs like education, voter reform and criminal justice have all been included in the original plan, but since have been dropped. Instead, a pay increase for state lawmakers is likely to be included.
Election Reform Not Included In Budget
Despite promises from the Governor and high hopes from advocacy groups, it looks like election reform measures have been left out of budget negotiations. Advocates have been fighting hard for measures such a early voting and same-day registration over the past year. Despite tacitly admitting they won’t be in the budget, Cuomo has said that the issue of election reform is still on his agenda; there’s just no plan for when it will happen.
MTA Scraps Metrocards, Proposes Fare Hike
As the MTA woes continue the transit authority has decided to change its operations. First, even as City lawmakers call for subsidized Metrocards for low-income residents, it was confirmed that metrocards will be ditched altogether between 2019 and 2023.Instead, riders will have contactless turnstiles for credit cards and phones. For those without cards or smart phones, single ride strips will be sold for cash.
In addition to confirming its new payment system, the MTA also unveiled plans to raise fares in 2019. While the base rate will remain the same, the discount offered for purchasing multiple rides will decrease from 11% to 5%. Additionally commuter rail fees will rise 4% and tolls around the city will also be going up.
MYD Engendering Progress
Saturday, March 31
9:00am – 2:00pm
292 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, USA
Sen. James Sanders Women Candidate Training
Saturday, March 31
10:00am – 12:30pm
Resistance Brunch with Shelley Mayer & Aidan O'Connor
Saturday, March 31
12:30pm – 2:30pm
Brennan Center for Justice: The Constitution vs. Trumpism: Challenges to the Rule of Law in 2018
Wednesday, April 4
6:00pm – 8:00pm
HIGHLIGHTED EVENT: First NYC Civic Fair
Saturday, April 7
1:00pm – 5:00pm
99 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA
Description:The first NYC Civic Fair. Groups from all over the city, focusing on all different aspects of politics, campaigns, issues and civics will be there to meet the public!
We'll also have representatives from all levels of the Democratic Party. RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1992372737679874/
Village Independent Democrats: Taking on Trump - Keynote Speaker AG Schneiderman
Wednesday, April 11
6:00pm – 7:00pm
Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Young Democrats: Not In Our Backyad, NRA!
Thursday, April 12
6:00pm – 8:00pm