By: Tony Best
For those who are in any doubt about of the importance of Thursday’s primary elections for seats in New York State’s legislative Assembly and the Senate in Albany and who are inclined to stay away from the polls need only look at what’s happening at home and across the country.
Increasingly, states are enacting legislation that’s putting mounting pressure on immigrants, especially those who may be in the country illegally. The obvious goal of the anti-immigrant forces is to encourage the foreign born to leave their new homes and find sanctuary elsewhere. In New York, immigrants don’t face such harassment but on the legislative docket are immigrant friendly bills that would make life easier for young people desirous of working or getting a sound education but are prevented from doing so because of their status. For instance, the ability to secure a driver’s license after being receiving permission under President Barack Obama’s deferred deportation initiative is one such measure. Voters must be mindful of the fact that it is the legislature and state agencies that approve budgets and regulate our schools. It’s the Assembly and the upper chamber that allocate state resources to keep our hospitals and clinics accessible to the poor and the middle class in urban and suburban centers.
“That’s why we should be conscious of our participation in these elections and it would be made very clear who participated in this election and who didn’t based on the precincts that come out to vote,” said U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Democrat of Brooklyn in a timely reminder about the September 13th primary election.
The change in the voting day from the usual Tuesday to Thursday in September was ordered by the Board of Elections in deference to the September 11th memorial observations in Manhattan and elsewhere and voters should make the extra effort to cast their ballots.
Voting is a fundamental right in New York and we shouldn’t allow opportunities to select our leaders to slip through our fingers because of inconvenience or a lack of interest in public affairs.
Of the many candidates on the ballots across the City, three have earned this paper’s endorsement because of their commitment to public service, their track records in office and their election platforms.
First is State Assemblyman Nick Perry, a veteran lawmaker who has been in Albany since he was first elected by voters in Brooklyn’s 58th District in 1992. Perry, who was born and raised in Jamaica is the Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, an influential position in the state capital that enables him to influence the passage of legislation, the allocation of state financial and other resources, and the decisions of state agencies responsible for health, education, services to the elderly and the youth and development of small businesses.
Perry, Chairman of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, has earned a reputation as a conscientious representative with a track record of bringing effective services to his constituents.
Next is State Senator Kevin Parker, who like Perry represents a large Caribbean population in Central Brooklyn. In the decade since he was first elected to State’s upper chamber, Parker has shown a keen interest in the plight of immigrants and on how to improve their economic and social condition. As the Chairman of the Senate Democratic Task Force on New Americans, Parker has vigorously supported the comprehensive immigration Reform and is a strong backer of President Obama’s deportation deferral initiative for young people. But he isn’t simply a voice for immigrants. Just the other day he took up the cause that is helping to keep the doors of Down State Medical Center open to Brooklyn residents and has repeatedly called for state funds to be made available for programs that keep young people off the street and involved in meaningful youth development activities.
As in the case of Perry, Parker’s place is in Albany, speaking out against uncaring social policies, including the stop and frisk police nightmare and was a strong advocate for legislation that is protecting the rights of domestics, many of whom are from the Caribbean.
Then there is Assemblyman Guillermo Linares who is conducting a determined campaign to replace State Senator Adriano Espaillat, the politician who tried but failed to unseat U.S. Congressman Charlie Rangel in the recent Democratic Primary for the Harlem seat in the House of Representatives.
Linares, who, incidentally backed Rangel and in the process triggered Espaillat’s anger is known for his independence, his keen interest in immigrants, not simply in Manhattan or the Bronx but across the City. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Commissioner of the office of immigrant affairs, he functioned as a bridge between immigrant communities and City government, usually paying no attention to people’s immigration status. There is little mystery behind his immigration advocacy. He too was an immigrant who became an American citizen during his sophomore year at City College of the City University of New York.
But Immigration doesn’t define Linares. As a member of the New York City Council, he once defied the then Speaker Gifford Miller who wanted rent controlled apartments to be returned to the market once they became empty. As housing advocates saw it, Miller’s plan posed a serious threat to affordable housing in the City and Linares decision to buck the powerful speaker showed earned his friends and supporters among advocates of housing for the poor. That has been his trademark as a lawmaker and that’s why he needed in Albany.