Good Morning from Buffalo, New York…

The domestic terrorist’s racist attack on Black Buffalonians continued to resonate this week, drawing President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to Buffalo. Here, again, are the victims:

The President and First Lady were joined by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, Governor Kathy Hochul, State Attorney General Letitia James, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and gobs of local elected officials at the Delavan-Grider Community Center. The delegation laid flowers at a makeshift memorial and the President took time with each victims’ families before delivering an address to the community, and to the nation.

 Biden, who is no stranger to personal tragedy and personal grief, offered a poignant, moving, and powerful speech. The President was visibly emotional when reflecting on the lives of the victims and ended with a message of hope to their families. “The day is going to come — it will come — when your loved one brings a smile as you remember him or her — as you remember her; it’s going to bring a smile to your lip before it brings a tear to your eye,” said the President.

There was, however, no call to action nor policy proposal. Some observers, and evidently Biden and his staff, thought it was not the time or place to engage on the issue. Others—including me—saw this as a missed opportunity to elevate the issue of gun safety into the midterm debate. There are good moral and political reasons to do that. If not gun safety proposals (which would, of course, go nowhere in Congress), Biden could have offered action via Executive Orders or federal funding for violence interrupters or other community support. 

Our Jack O’Donnell joined the news team at News 4 Buffalo to provide political analysis during its expanded coverage of the President’s visit following the racially-motivated mass killings in Buffalo. Watch an interview here. More coverage here

Instead, Governor Hochul seized the moment: Hochul announced a plan aimed at closing some of the loopholes in the state’s gun laws and stricter enforcement of existing red flag laws. The Governor and state law enforcement agencies are also stepping up their scrutiny of social media platforms and examining how they can stem the flow of hateful and dangerous misinformation that motivated the Buffalo shooter. 
 
These proposals, with some tweaks, are likely to pass before the Legislature adjourns in just six (6) session days. Here’s a recap of the issues we discussed in last week’s newsletter, as well as some other issues that are still out there before the end of Session.
 
  • Green Priorities—Since the passage of the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA) in 2019, environmentalists, utilities, and other stakeholders spend every session pushing legislation that they think will help achieve the ambitious CLCPA goals on emissions reduction and renewable energy production. This year is no different on that front. 
  • NYC Issues—While most decision makers were in Buffalo last week, Eric Adams was in Albany to lobby on New York City’s priorities for 2022.  
  • Good Cause Eviction– Housing advocates want to see stronger renter protections passed that will make it harder to evict tenants. Good Cause Eviction—sponsored by Senate Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Pam Hunter—would prohibit eviction without “good cause.” It is a priority for Housing advocates and key progressives. However, being that it is not on the floor in either house, sponsors will have to move quickly. 
 
The other big New York news was the release of the final electoral maps from Steuben County Court Judge Patrick McAllister and court-appointed redistricting special master Dr. Jonathan Cervas.
 
You can view the final Congressional maps here and the State Senate maps here. There was some uncertainty regarding how much, if at all, the final maps would deviate from the drafts Cervas released on Monday, drafts that caused a fair amount of consternation and intramural political fights. Some of those have now been rendered moot with the changes while for others, it is go time. Petitioning for new candidates opened on Saturday. 
 
Highlights:
 
Congressional
 
  • The newly drawn 12th district includes most of Manhattan and pits longtime New York City congressional members Carolyn Maloney and Jerold Nadler against each other. Both Maloney and Nadler have released statements announcing their intent to run. It is the first time, at least in modern times, that two committee chairs are facing off in a primary. 
  • DCCC Chair Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney will run for reelection in the 17th district as a result of the changes. His decision left current NY-17 representative, Mondaire Jones, with a tough choice. Jones announced he will move into NYC and run in the 10th district (one without an incumbent) but the manner in which it went down left many progressives with a bad taste in their mouth.  
  • One of the most notable changes between the draft and enacted maps was the reunification of the Crown Heights neighborhood with Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. The proposed split of the neighborhoods was met with intense backlash.  
 Senate
 
  • The special master reunified the city of Buffalo after originally proposing a plan that would have grouped part of the city with the Southern Tier of the state.  
  • The new State Senate maps will have twelve districts that are considered competitive- up from the six orginally proposed by Democrats. 
  • Cervas made some significant changes in Long Island, redrawing parts of the 4th District to create a “majority-minority” district that was proposed by many groups. 
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, one of the top Democrats in Washington, has been very outspoken about the special master’s decision to split up large African American, Jewish, and other minority communities in New York City. In a statement, Jeffries called the maps “a constitutional travesty.” Earlier in the week, Jeffries threaten a lawsuit to challenge the lines
 
Also, we have Assembly primaries a month from Tuesday. More to come on those after Session.

In Washington…

Despite political struggles on the home front, President Biden has found a steadfast ally in Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian President, not shy to criticize those he feels are not doing enough to support his country, was highly complementary of Biden after he signed into law a $40 billion aid package that includes long range, American-made artillery that many military experts say is key to winning a long, protracted ground war in the east of the country. 
 
President Biden made his first trip to Asia as President, visiting South Korea and Japan as he seeks to promote democratic allies across the globe and strengthen economic ties in the region as we continue to emerge from a post-pandemic era. 
 
As bad as this week has been, it can always get worse: monkeypox is something “to be concerned about”; the market continued to stumble, even hitting bear territory before recovering; over a 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are in Russian custody after surrendering at the Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the war-torn city of Mariupol; while over a million Americans have been confirmed to have died from Covid.
 

More uplifting, friend of the firm and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes received the Norton Medal at the University at Buffalo’s commencement over the weekend. The medal is awarded to an individual who “performed some great thing which is identified with Buffalo … a great civic or political act, a great book, a great work of art, a great scientific achievement or any other thing which, in itself, is truly great and ennobling, and which dignifies the performer and Buffalo in the eyes of the world.” 

Still mourning with her community, her speech was perfect. “I don’t know if anyone has told you yet today, but I love you.” Thank you, Majority Leader- We love you too.  

-Jack O’Donnell

 

 

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