Andrew Yang says community councils are ‘positive for democracy’ – even when reminded they are not – Streetsblog New York City
Andrew Yang believes community councils are a bastion of democracy – even if they end up obstructing his agenda as mayor.
At a Battery Park press conference on Tuesday announcing his plans for “democratic reform” – which include lowering the municipal voting age to 16 and granting the right to vote to non- citizens – Streetsblog asked Yang how community councils fit into his vision. Are these citizen groups – who are appointed by district presidents and members of local councils – more likely to be vectors of popular democracy or do they have too much influence on city governance?
“What an interesting question. I feel that community councils are great because they are people who intervene in their neighborhood to try to sort out and solve the problems that matter to them and their neighbors, ”replied the candidate. “I have a hard time imagining how you could see community councils as anything but positive for democracy, because it’s a very high level of civic engagement.
Recalling that community councils often obstruct vital cycle paths and traffic-calming infrastructure, Yang insisted he had no problem with them.
“It’s interesting. Again, I appreciate people who want to give voice to the interests of their communities. I just see it as something to admire,” Yang said.
Community councils have no real authority to legislate or veto city projects – their volunteer roles are purely advisory. Yet over the years the city government, especially the Department of Transportation, has given community councils inordinate influence which is mainly used to discourage the administration from carrying out road changes that can make the city safer. .
Community council members have delay street appeasement measures and crucial cycling infrastructure across town – in many cases for years, costing lives. Their members have stoked a racist police crackdown on delivery cyclists, recommended for towing books on affordable housing, suggested that some pedestrians deserve to die and that low-income workers do not have the right to relieve themselves with dignity. they have opposite popular programs like open streets and Citi bike rack installation, and demand the right to violate the highway code when the laws don’t suit them.
A community council even used city money to buy a luxury car.
Above all, their objections to changing the living environment boil down to complaints about a loss of parking spaces, a position that is out of step with a city that largely does not own cars and would prefer to see valuable real estate on the curb used for something else. Sometimes community council members complain about a lack of DOT ‘commitment’.
Just said @bdhowald that the monthly Manhattan Transportation Committee CB8 meeting has so far been terribly tame, just before a board member embarks on an roughly 5-minute rant about how alfresco dining is a scourge for the community
– Julianne Cuba (@Julcuba) May 5, 2021
In 2018, New Yorkers voted to modify the city charter to limit the service of community board members to four consecutive two-year terms. The amendment also stipulated that district presidents should pass demographic information to the city’s 59 community councils to ensure that they actually represent their neighborhoods, but so far the data has been spotty.
Yang clearly hasn’t familiarized himself with the long, paint-peeling community council process (sometimes there are punches and allegations from Epstein!) since we asked him on “community” opposition to cycling infrastructure at the Bike NY forum in March.
The other candidates weren’t much better. New York Times-endorsed Kathryn Garcia said she would retain the councils’ advisory role, but would not let them stop the DOT cycling network. Shaun Donovan has said something about introducing improvements as part of a “full set of options”. Ray McGuire had his bike in the frame behind him.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is elbow to elbow practically running with Yang in recent polls still showing “indecisive” dominance, said he would use “credible messengers” to dispel the idea that bike lanes are close to gentrification. But he also said this: “I communicated with the members of the borough’s community council and I tell you that at the heart of their concerns, they have the feeling:“ Eric, no one is talking to us; They are talking at we.'”
Scott Stringer had a somewhat valiant, if unrealistic, plan for reaching out to community councils: “I’m going to commit to this: as mayor, I’m going to go to community councils. I will build consensus around the table. “
As Yang stood in front of the Statue of Liberty to speak openly about his democratic reforms, he also took the opportunity to create some hype. a recent story from the New York Times which details how Adams reaped campaign donations from companies with pre-city businesses, and then multiplied those donations as part of the city’s matching fund program.
“To see another candidate break these rules and then dismiss him as a paperwork problem is extremely upsetting,” Yang told reporters, adding that he had filed a complaint with the city’s Campaign Finance Council. “New York: Eric Adams took your taxes and used them to boost special interests here in New York that didn’t need them.”
Streetsblog asked Yang if he too could be accused of “amplifying special interests” since his main campaign advisor was a long-time lobbyist in New York for clients like the Police Benevolent Association and Uber. Lobbyist Bradley Tusk literally called Yang as an “empty container” which we pointed out to the candidate.
“I think there is a major and major distinction between the people who work on your campaign and who may have been lobbying at some point, which I think is true for almost all campaigns, and the violation of campaign finance rules in front of all of us, ”Yang replied. .
Adams’ campaign responded to Yang’s criticism with its own letter to the BFC, alleging “personal dealings” between the Yang mayor’s campaign, his non-profit organization, and his presidential campaign.
“Andrew Yang literally paid for himself with his own campaign to run for office and asked his campaign to buy over $ 225,000 in copies of his book,” said the campaign spokesperson for Adams Evan Thies in a statement. “He funneled over a million dollars from his nonprofit organization on black money to his two campaigns, loaned his bankrupt presidential campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars and left a trail of activity. highly debatable between several entities that promote it. If anyone deserves an investigation, it’s Andrew Yang.