Soon-to-be governor Kathy Hochul

Erie County

Kathy HochulSomeone from outside of New York State asked me what I thought of soon-to-be New York State Governor Kathy Hochul. The answer is that I had hardly thought of her at all. In fact, a month ago, if someone had shown me an unlabeled picture of her, it’s only about 50/50 that I would have been able to identify her.

This is a good thing, actually. She wasn’t tied at the hip to Andrew Cuomo, and has, so far, said the right things about cleaning house.

Daily Kos notes: “Hochul will be New York’s first governor from the Buffalo area since none other than Democrat Grover Cleveland, who won the top job in 1882 after a short stint as mayor. She’s also the first bona fide Upstate resident to hold the post since Republican Nathan Miller of Cortland County left office in 1922.”

From Buffalo to Albany

This upstate/downstate issue has been an issue in the state since approximately forever. Heck, where upstate begins – Poughkeepsie, maybe – is subject to debate. (And that doesn’t even count the people who’ve decided that Buffalo’s actually in the Midwest US because it’s closer to Detroit, Mi (255 miles/411 km) than New York City (374 miles/601 km).

Daily Kos: “As distant as her geographic roots are from the Queens-born Cuomo’s, so too does her personal style differ. As Roll Call’s Jim Saska puts it, ‘Where Cuomo was feared, Hochul is beloved; where Cuomo had judged, Hochul has empathized.'”

Her relatively conservative record when running for Congress a decade ago became a liability when running for lieutenant governor. She was primaried twice and did less well in her primaries than Cuomo did in his. I voted for her opponents both times. I picked in 2014 legal scholar Tim Wu, who lost 60-40, and in 2018, low-profile New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, lost by only a 53-47 margin. So since I’ve not voted for Cuomo in 2014 or 2018, I’ve never voted for her.

Enough is Enough

Still, I’m very willing to give her a chance. After Andrew, she’ll be a refreshing change. She says she’s running for governor next year, and she absolutely had to announce that. If she didn’t, she’d be an instant lame duck. It’ll be a contentious primary in June 2022.

From the Times Union: “She has led Cuomo’s 10 regional economic development councils, chaired a task force on heroin and opioid abuse and addiction, and led the governor’s ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. She is married to William Hochul, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, who is now in private practice. They are the parents of two children.”

The history community is excited to see her in the new job. As IHARE notes: “The incoming Governor is far better qualified… I say this not because she has a background in such history but because of her training in office. For the past few years, she has held what is routinely regarded as a ‘ceremonial’ position. As such she has spent a lot of time outside of Albany traveling to a multitude of local events. These events from time to time include history sites and conferences.

I wish Kathy Hochul good luck as the state’s first female governor.

Vaccine incentive: donuts to college

free stuff

I’m OK with the COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs. So is the White HouseThe programs range from free donuts and beer to lottery tickets to select free passes to attractions.

Still, I was just a tad put off by the fact that many of the incentives were only for the newly vaccinated. (Sidebar: a previously resistant local columnist got kudos for changing their mind and deciding to get the vaccine. Meh.)

Yeah, yeah, getting the injections as soon as I could was its own reward. Second Pfizer shot on March 24, for the record, back in the old days when people were actually in line to receive it.

So, I’m pleased that New York State is offering a Vaccination Scholarship Incentive. “Enter your vaccinated 12-17-year-old for a chance to win a full scholarship to a SUNY or CUNY school.” I believe we have one of those in our household. Yup, under 18, vaccinated the second time in mid-April. So I signed up.

“Get a shot to make your future. New Yorkers age 12 to 17 who get vaccinated (or already have gotten vaccinated) can enter for a chance to win a 4-year full-ride scholarship to any public college or university in New York State. Fifty total winners will be chosen at five random drawings. The scholarship includes full tuition, room, and board, as well as an allowance for books and supplies. Parents can learn more here.”

American football

Oh, and here’s something potentially for me, as noted in the Boston Globe: “Starting June 1, you could score a VIP trip to Super Bowl LVI along with your COVID-19 vaccine at CVS. Woonsocket-based CVS Health announced… that eligible customers who received or plan to receive a COVID-19 vaccination through one of their retail pharmacies will be able to enter into their new sweepstakes program for a chance to win one of more than a thousand prizes. The winners will be chosen through weekly drawings and grand prizes over the next six weeks.”

Note to self: go to this site today. I’m going to the Super Bowl! OK, probably not. Where IS the Super Bowl next year anyway? Near Los Angeles.

Regardless, I hope this governmental and corporate bribery of the citizenry works to get more shots in arms.

Time for police reform continues to be right now

Create a policy for a transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct.

police reformIn the area of police reform, the Minneapolis Police Department is particularly problematic, I’ve discovered. One might not be surprised to find a story in the Boston Globe, from 4 June with the headline. Don’t let labor agreements thwart police accountability. “Union agreements too often prevent police departments from firing officers who act violently or inappropriately. Lawmakers of both parties need to take police discipline out of labor negotiations so that accountability can no longer be used as a bargaining chip.”

Yeah, do you know who else wrote that? The Federalist! And with some chilling details: “In the particular case of George Floyd…: at least two cops should have lost their jobs long before the event even occurred. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on [George] Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, had previously received 20 complaints filed against him, resulting in two letters of reprimand. His partner, Tou Thao, was sued in 2017 for stopping a man without cause and beating him in the street. In both cases, their contracts protected them.”

Here’s another dreadful piece of the puzzle: “Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers. ‘There’s been a big influx of PTSD,’ Kroll said. ‘But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.” Maybe.

So it’s a bit scary when a white man calls cops on black men at Minneapolis WeWork gym, which fortunately did not turn into a dangerous confrontation.

Still, Minneapolis public schools voted to sever their contract with the police. “We want justice for George Floyd, and we know that justice isn’t enough. And now is the time to defund the police and invest in the community.”

Likewise, according to the LA Times: “As protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd [continued], Los Angeles officials said [June 3] that they will cut $100 million to $150 million from the city’s police budget as part of a broader effort to reinvest more dollars into the local black community.” Here’s what the defund the police movement means.

It’ll be interesting to see if the misunderstood and frankly misleadingly labeled defund movement takes hold, and if so what it will mean.

Perhaps, it’ll be like what Bernie Sanders is pushing for: “civilian corps of unarmed first responders to supplement law enforcement, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals.”

Watch/read this now

If you’re still grappling with what this policing issue is all about, I most highly recommend Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. At the very end is a very eloquent, very angry young black woman talking about Protesters, Looters, Rioters, and the social contract between black people and the police.

The Weekly Sift guy explains How Should American Policing Change?

Surprisingly, in AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux suggests we protest also against police unions and qualified immunity.

New York State

“What we’ve been seeing play out across cities and townships throughout the country [recently] are Americans taking to the streets speaking out to say they’ve had enough of the status quo. Protesters are demanding meaningful systematic and structural changes to address the egregious racial inequities in our justice system and, really, in every facet of our government and society – including in policing, housing, health care, education, and employment, to name a few.”

There’s a list of potential police reform initiatives in the above graphic for New York State. Item #1 is the repeal of New York State’s police secrecy law, Section 50-a, which “hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public.” Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox: “Repealing New York’s 50-a law is a critical step to protect the public safety of all New Yorkers.” It was just passed!

Nationally

On the federal level, there is a bill called the Excessive Force Prevention Act. It was originally introduced in the House by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries which would make police chokeholds illegal under federal civil rights law. [The next bit I purloined from an email.]

National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-focused organization that works to end the horrific policy of pretrial detention and cash bail that keeps so many people of color in jails and prisons without a conviction, simply for being unable to pay. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, National Bail Out has been working to bail out Black mothers and caregivers—and now to bail out protesters who have been arrested en masse.

Senator Brian Schatz (D–HI) has announced that he will introduce an amendment that will prevent local police forces from getting tear gas, drones, armored vehicles, and high-caliber weapons of war from the military. This important amendment — in addition to initiatives to defund police departments and hold police officers accountable for committing crimes against the public — will help combat systemic police brutality in the U.S.

Contact Congress TODAY to stop police departments from buying weapons of war.

Arming police forces with military weapons doesn’t reduce crime or protect law enforcement officers from violence. In fact, police forces that are equipped with weapons of war are more likely to kill civilians. Even worse, militarized police forces often target Black and minority-majority communities, where getting killed by the police is among the leading causes of death.

Local law enforcement agencies have bought billions of dollars worth of guns, explosives, helicopters, and more from the military. Senator Schatz wants to end this practice by passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This important amendment will prevent the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, but only if more members of Congress support it.

Have we had an American Stonewall? “If a politician wants to exercise real leadership, let them proclaim a day of healing where they lead a march of police and protesters together in support of a new era in police relations.” OR you can go the other way, with heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves patrolling the streets of Washington, DC, sent by the Bureau of Prisons.

The other three

After Nearly 10,000 Arrested During Week of Protest, Three Other Police Officers Finally Charged Over Murder of George Floyd. “All you had to do was arrest three more.” “All four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death are now facing criminal charges. Until now the only one charged was Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd down with his knee on his neck. Minnesota’s AG announced he’s facing second-degree murder charges, updated from third-degree charges (which carry a shorter sentence). The three other officers – Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng – were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But recent news could escalate tensions.”

People have asked me, “What can I do?” Find whatever initiatives on policing that have been undoubtedly been kicking around your locality or state for years and let your representatives know you support police reform.

The NYS Bag Waste Reduction Law

reusable bags

bagAs I needed to go to the local CVS pharmacy and Price Chopper/Market 32 supermarket early on March 2, I brought my own canvas bags. I’ve been doing this long before the new NYS Bag Waste Reduction Law.

“As of March 1, 2020, [almost] all plastic carryout bags became banned from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax… Cities and counties are authorized to adopt a five-cent paper carry-out bag reduction fee…

“In areas that have adopted the five-cent paper carryout bag reduction fee, the fee does not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children — a nutrition program) recipients…” There are exemptions involving produce and certain small stores, but you get the idea.

So I’m right behind some guy who has no reusable bags. In fact, he seems unaware of the new law. The store’s going to charge him a nickel for a paper bag. Strategically, he decides to pack his own bag, trying to get everything in one. Then he started ranting about how the big corporations are trying to “stick it to the little guy.” The cashier stoically said nothing.

Embracing the canvas

Luckily, I’ve been hoarding collecting reusable bags for a number of years. They tend to be available at almost every street fair (Larkfest and Pinkersterfest in ALB, e.g.) Also, they have been regular giveaways at work conferences. So, long before the law was passed, our household was ridiculously prepared. We’ve used reusable bags, or no bags, for years without legislative fiat.

Because our grocery stores have insisted on double-bagging almost EVERYTHING, we also have a few dozen plastic bags as well. Those will get used up eventually; you can use it different ways which you can view them here, they’re used as a garbage can or cat litter liner. Change is difficult, of course. Redeeming bottles and cans took a while for folks to get used to. And some still haven’t gotten there. Almost every time my wife goes for a walk around the neighborhood, she’s collected about a half a buck in returnables.

So I’m good with the new law. As someone said, “I’m usually good with a sin tax if it incentivizes me to adapt my behavior in a positive way.”

New York State primary June 25

7 candidates for 2 Family Court Judge slots

Election 2019Back in January, the Governor signed a bill that moves all New York State primary elections, federal, state, and local races, to June.

In many ways, this is a very good thing, one I’ve supported. In previous years, the federal races – Congress, US Senator – were in June, with the others in September. The autumnal primaries were too late, giving the incumbent an unfair advantage.

To the surprise of many, the change went into effect right away. This has meant that the petitioning to get on the ballot took place in April rather than July.

One of the candidates for Family Court Judge, a countywide race, showed up at my door recently. I was thinking she wanted my signature on her petition. No, she wanted me to support her in the actual race. Given her door-to-door effort and her record, I think I will vote for her.

Yikes, there are SEVEN candidates for Family Court Judge for two slots. Of the other six, one I won’t vote for is the lawyer who screwed up the amount I needed for closing on the house we live in, leaving me $1800 short. He may be qualified for the court position, but it’s my one chance for vengeance.

Additionally, there are two candidates for one county court judge, and three candidates for one city court judge on June 25.

Finally, there’s a contentious race between two candidates for Albany County Comptroller. I know one of them personally. A supporter from the other camp Instant Messaged me to tout the qualifications and non-racist bona fides of his candidate.

The candidate I spoke with indicates that, in all of these Democratic primaries, the winner of those races will almost certainly be elected in November, because that’s the way it is in Albany County. That’s why I’m enrolled in a party.

I remain irritable that we in upstate New York can only vote from noon until 9 p.m., quite possibly the shortest primary slot in the country. Yet people in New York City, Long Island, some NYC suburbs, and Erie County (Buffalo) can vote from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.