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A Tuesday Covering New York Politics and Policy

by Ben Max

 

My Tuesday was not especially abnormal, but it struck me as particularly indicative of a day immersed in covering New York politics and policy.

 

After waking up around 6:45 and a few short minutes spent reading email and tweets on my phone, I showered, dressed, and hopped onto my laptop for a couple more minutes of email and Twitter. Then, to The New School for a panel event, “The City and The State: Conflict or Collaboration?” moderated by Andrew White and paneled by State Senator Liz Krueger, New York Times columnist Michael Powell, New York Times reporter Thomas Kaplan, and former Assemblymember Michael Benjamin.

 

The five discussed the first two months of the Bill de Blasio mayoralty and issues at play between de Blasio and New York City on one hand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state legislature, and New York State on the other. None expressed great confidence in Albany to make decisions helpful to the city.

 

I tweeted throughout the event, as I do most I attend, my way of taking notes and of getting the word out in real time.

 

Afterward, I discussed the nature of the political news business with Powell for a few minutes and headed to a coffee shop for a couple of hours of work (more email and Twitter, as well as some editing of DecideNYC.com site content) before going to City Hall for the City Council Education Committee hearing on conditions for LGBTQ students, families, and teachers in and relevant to the city’s schools.

 

The committee is chaired by Councilmember Danny Dromm [pictured, center], a longtime teacher before he ran for office, who presided over the hearing. Dromm is openly gay and has a long history of fighting for civil rights.

 

The hearing was interesting, important, and emotional.

 

To start, three students shared their troubling and uplifting personal stories, followed by testimony from representatives of the City Department of Education, and then additional student and teacher speakers. One of those teachers, Elana Eisen-Markowitz, I went to graduate school with when we both completed a Master of Arts in Teaching program at Tufts University several years ago. Elana is in her seventh year teaching history at Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters High School and is a remarkable leader.

 

Virtually everyone who testified before or spoke from the council dais acknowledged the need for more programming, services, and infrastructure to support and protect LGBTQ students, families, and teachers in and by city schools and the DOE.

 

It appeared a significant, hopeful day for those involved and those they represent.

 

Several council members, including the openly gay Corey Johnson, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Ritchie Torres, as well as Mark Weprin, Jumaane Williams, and others, commented on the momentous nature of the hearing, especially with it coming under Dromm’s chairship.

 

From City Hall it was on to a coffee meeting and then a train uptown toward the Roosevelt House, which was hosting a CUNY Institute for Education Policy event, “Is Albany’s Tax Credit Bill Good for New York?”

 

Off the train, I grabbed a slice of pizza, which I ate by hand.

 

Then, a coffee shop for about 40 minutes of email and editing. Then, The Roosevelt House.

 

The education policy event was a conversation led by the Institute’s Director, David Steiner (who is also Dean of the Hunter College School of Education and a former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education), and included Thomas Carroll, President of the Coalition for Opportunity and Education and Ashley Berner, Deputy Director of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy.

 

The three discussed the merits of a complicated and controversial bill in the state legislature that would, if passed, allow New Yorkers a tax credit for donations to education scholarship funds. These donations would mostly be aimed at private, religious, charter and other non-district schools. There are a great many details of the bill, of which Carroll is a vehement supporter, and the discussion around it that I can’t go into here.

 

For a nightcap, I headed further uptown for the launch party of The Four Freedoms Democratic Club, a newly formed political club of the 76th Assembly District, started after controversy at one of the district’s other clubs. Four Freedoms, founded by M.J. Dillon and others, including acting chair Kim Moscaritolo, saw a strong turnout, including visits from upper east side Councilmember Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who each spoke to the crowd. The club could play a significant role in the race to succeed Assemblymember Micah Kellner, who has said he will not be seeking re-election in 2014 amid a sexual harassment scandal.

 

All in all, it was another full, varied, juicy day of city politics and policy. Four events, a few coffee shops, maybe a hundred or so tweets, and a lot to synthesize. While I sent a lot of information out through the twittersphere, I will also use what I gleaned toward our Decide NYC issue pages, 2014 election coverage, and more.

 

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