New York State Democratic committee members gathered last week at an Albany hotel to pass five resolutions guiding state lawmakers’ actions over the next month as the legislative session draws to a close. The 200 delegates from 54 of the state’s 62 counties set April 2, 2024, as the presidential primary day in the state.
“We passed the 2024 delegate selection plan for the Democratic National Committee. We’re going to be working on the delegate selection process, getting the petitions ready when they go out in the late fall so we have a lot of work and preparation to do. I’m not expecting anything unusual,” Party Chairman Jay Jacobs told The Jewish Press. “We have a great record advanced by President Biden and we would be very proud to stand on that record.
“We came together to discuss amicably and openly several resolutions. We were able to bring everybody together on several resolutions. Everybody, on all sides, walked away I think with some level of happiness and I think they liked the process, they liked the openness and they liked the ability to discuss these issues and then come to a consensus. This meeting was a perfect example of bringing everybody together.”
At least one member voting on the resolutions wasn’t so happy.
“These are basically recommendations to the state legislature,” Stan Norwalk, an assistant state committeeman for the 24th Assembly District in Queens, told The Jewish Press. “We were not given the proper materials to read. Like the propositions, we were never given the list before the meeting, so I didn’t have a chance to prepare. It was up on a screen. But I couldn’t see the screen. So, when they were asking us to vote on issues, I personally didn’t have a chance to digest all the issues.”
Two of the resolutions included making it easier for a voters’ ballot access by modifying petition requirements. Another resolution called for increased transparency at state committee meetings by posting and publicizing the attendance records, voting records committee members and registered guests in attendance of each meeting on the state committee website.
A third resolution, the most controversial, has the New York State Democratic Committee calling for swift passage by the Assembly and Senate to add a new section to the education law “instructing the commissioner of education to establish curriculum or instruction for school districts in the historical treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. The content shall be age-appropriate and shall be developed according to the needs and abilities of pupils at successive grade levels in order to provide information, skills, and understanding of the historic treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” the resolution reads.
Norwalk attended the two-day gathering and afterwards said this resolution was not necessary. “There’s a lot of emphasis on the LGBT movement,” Norwalk said. “There is a large focus on that even though they represent less than two percent of the community and there are already a lot of laws on the books that protect them. This is a redundancy of what is already existing.”
A fourth resolution resolves “to advocate on behalf of renters across the state because of an urgent and a serious crisis of the affordability and availability of rental housing. We urge the Governor, Assembly and Senate to act expeditiously to provide more rental housing and tenant protections that will bring relief and comfort to New Yorkers in need,” states the resolution approved by acclamation.
One Staten Island Democrat, who did not attend the meeting, took exception to the wording of that resolution.
“Real estate has to be protected in the balance to make sure the property investor has the incentive to buy real estate and invest in the economy,” said Mendy Mirocznik, a district leader from the 63rd Assembly District. “We have to balance everything out by taking the needs of the real estate industry into account so that they should stay in New York to make the proper investments. You need to be very cautious that everything needs to take the interests of all proper stakeholders involved.
“Tenant protections are not going away. They’re here. This is New York. However, we also have to balance out the needs of the landlords, of the real estate industry, to make certain there should be incentives to properly invest. You cannot make it so that it’s too difficult to invest. If not, the real estate stock is going to collapse,” Mirocznik concluded.
Norwalk, 76, lives in Kew Gardens Hills among an enclave of Bukharan Jews. He compares this resolution with the migrant invasion impacting the five boroughs.
“We, in New York, have a shortage of housing and prices are sky high. Yet, they keep on bringing in immigrants and that money is going away from the taxpayer who needs cheap housing,” Norwalk said. “We should be looking out for the American citizen and not for the immigrant. The criminals and immigrants have more rights than the average citizen based on what’s going on today. The immigrants are coming into the five boroughs and there is no place to house them and we don’t have housing for our homeless and veterans. Who comes first? It seems like the immigrants are coming first and I don’t think that’s fair to the taxpayer. We should support our veterans and our homeless.”
A fifth and final resolution states that “mental health and substance abuse is at a crisis level in New York state and in the rest of the country. It is incumbent upon us as a society to treat those who suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse with care and concern and resources not dissimilar to any other physical ailment or disease.”
Mirocznik, who is stepping down as district leader next month, hopes lawmakers deal with mental health issues with a scalpel, not a hammer, and connects it to bail reform.
“People are accountable for their acts but there also has to be a balance with understanding when somebody is affected by substance abuse and mental health situations how to treat it appropriately. We have to be very careful with recidivism and that those who are actually committing the crimes are held accountable. By the same token, mental health means a proper mental health check. If somebody poses himself to be a risk to society and a menace to society, incarceration might not be the solution but mandatory mental health examination, keeping the person under proper watch and care, might be the solution for those individuals.
“I don’t think the bail reforms went far enough. We have to make sure that society is properly protected. There should be some mandatory situations where bail is not just discretionary and if someone has a mental issue, we should handle it with proper care but the person should be watched to make sure they’re not a threat to themselves or to society as a whole,” concluded Mirocznik.
During breaks in the program, many attendees discussed the situation surrounding Congressman George Santos and the third congressional district he represents.
“The election results in four congressional races were disappointing, but remember we won everything else,” Jacobs said, trying to put the best spin on an embarrassing outcome. “The third congressional district, we lost the independent vote and the turnout on the Republican side was exceptionally high. It wasn’t about being caught off-guard, it’s just what happens in an election. Sometimes there are issues in an election that capture support in the voting public that you just can’t easily fight and that’s what we had here.”
Norwalk had his own take on the race even though he doesn’t live in that congressional district.
“[Santos] is a fraud completely,” Norwalk said. “The only reason the Republicans don’t get rid of him is they don’t want to lose that vote, otherwise he doesn’t belong where he is today, so I think he should resign. I think he will be convicted. There are no morals in politics. The Republicans couldn’t care less about what he did because they want his vote. That’s the way the game is run. If he was a Democrat, I think it would be the same. There is only a four-vote margin in Congress. Every vote counts and he’s an important vote.”
A community campaign advisor, Alan Sherman of Flushing, an honored guest at the committee meeting, worked on the campaign for Santos’s opponent, Robert Zimmerman.
“I think [Zimmerman] lost because Long Island was definitely not voting for Democrats,” Sherman told The Jewish Press. “This goes to my point that people don’t vote down party lines anymore. You need to do your research. There are good Democrats, there are good Republicans. There are bad Democrats, there are bad Republicans. You need to research. Don’t go down party lines, otherwise you get stuck with George Santos or AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] if you don’t do your research. That’s how Santos won. People just blindly voted Republican.”
Sherman and Jacobs had a pointed discussion about respect for the position of other Democrats.
“Our country is in trouble because we lost the art of compromise. We lost the art of respect for people who think differently and just the whole idea of getting along with each other. It’s not there. I didn’t see it this weekend. I don’t see it in my day-to-day life, the art of compromise is dead,” Sherman said. “Jay understands my point. I told him I feel sorry for him and the job he has. There’s just no respect there and he works his tail off. People should show him and anyone else in his position, whether you agree with him or not, the respect that they deserve for doing their job. It’s just not there anymore.”
Staten Island’s Mirocznik agrees with Queens’ Sherman.
“Those types of mix and matches within organizations where you can have a conversation within the middle are lacking desperately in state politics. I find Jay to be a very good leader. I have no issue with his leadership style. He has served under the most interesting of times. I commend him for his great public service,” Mirocznik, 50, said. “The people should always be independent-minded and have a right to disrespect within a forum and we should not be trying to make things homogenous. We should allow enough air, enough discussion among people who are independent-minded and should not be marginalized lock, stock, and barrel. That’s the biggest plague in politics right now and the biggest plague in society right now. If I agree with the committee seven or eight out of 10 times on two or three key issues, I’m told I’m not keeping in line with the thought process. That type of approach is very dangerous for a democracy. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you have to allow for an exchange of ideas and allow each other to disagree respectfully. That’s something lost from the discussion right now. We’re painting people too quickly because we have different opinions and different middle grounds and that’s the problem we got.”
Jacobs sees this gathering as a meeting of the minds.
“It doesn’t make a difference how many Democrats there would be in office. We always fight amongst ourselves. That’s the nature of being a Democrat,” Jacobs proudly noted. “What we demonstrated today was that we could have these disagreements and we could do them civilly, have conversations and I think that is something to be proud of.”