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Home » Clarion » 2017 » September 2017 » PSC flexes political muscle in key races

PSC flexes political muscle in key races

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There’s a saying that “all politics is local,” and this fall, the PSC is focusing on key New York City races, including the mayor’s race and City Council races, with the goal of maintaining a progressive focus for citywide offices. The union’s Legislative Committee is engaged in a months-long process of vetting, endorsing and orienting key candidates for the issues important to the CUNY community.

PSC Legislative Committee member Paul Washington said citywide politics are essential for the union.
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“The PSC is proud to make these endorsements. The candidates for open seats have demonstrated that they understand the importance of CUNY to the future of New York City,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “They are committed to making sure that every New Yorker has access to a top-quality, affordable college education – especially when the communities who rely on CUNY are newly vulnerable because of federal policies.”

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Primaries for the candidates will be held on September 12, the second Tuesday in September, and the general elections will be on November 7. Seven members on the City Council, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, are term-limited and cannot run again for re-election. Thus far, the PSC has endorsed 44 candidates for City Council, and among those endorsements, eight candidates are running in hotly contested races. Many incumbent Council members have primary challengers, making these races extremely important. Also, PSC members who live in New Jersey will be electing a new governor.

While the state is the primary funder for CUNY, city politics remain an important realm for the PSC – the operating budget for CUNY’s community colleges is funded by New York City. And the need for increasing city aid to higher education comes at a critical moment. With a federal government dedicated to reversing progress in access to health care, immigration policy and workers’ rights, it’s important to have a progressive force at the local level to give some security to vulnerable communities and continue policies which make New York a city where all can thrive. With President Donald Trump in office, it has mobilized many to get more involved in local and regional politics.

“Given what’s happening with the Donald Trump phenomenon, it’s a great opportunity for people to come together to push for the world that they want, to push for the CUNY they want,” said Dominic Wetzel, a PSC legislative committee member and an associate professor at Kingsborough Community College. “We need to get better funding for CUNY, get the MOE [Maintenance of Effort bill] signed, and get more educational access for our students.” The state Maintenance of effort bill, if signed, would factor annual projected increases, including salary increases under collective bargaining and increased rates for operating costs, into the guaranteed budget for the university. Both chambers of the State Legislature passed the bill; now it awaits a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Through candidate forums, questionnaires, and a session on issues specific to CUNY, the PSC legislative committee arrived at the list of candidates to recommend to PSC officers and the Executive Council for endorsement.

“The whole process was both exhilarating and exhausting,” said Francine Brewer, a committee member and a PSC retiree chapter officer who taught at LaGuardia Community College.

The process culminated in a marathon interview session on a Saturday in May, where candidates talked about their platforms and answered questions from union members. PSC member Jennifer Harrington took part in the session, and she said that it gave her a view of city politics. She said that they were looking for candidates who were committed to CUNY’s mission and supportive of progressive issues, including affordable housing, voting no on a state constitutional convention, and giving support to the city’s homeless.

“It let me see an inside peek on how people become candidates and how they get a City Council seat,” Harrington told Clarion.

UNION PRESENCE

Paul Washington, a veteran member on the PSC Legislative Committee who worked as chief of staff for former City Council member Charles Barron before coming to CUNY, said that the political advocacy the union does is essential to secure funding for CUNY and move politicians to prioritize initiatives crucial to CUNY’s success. The direct result of PSC’s continued advocacy has increased the visibility of the PSC to city officials. “We always have to have an inside-outside strategy,” said Washington, who works in the Registrar’s Office at Medgar Evers College. “You have to be in the street. You also have to engage those people in power to let them know the issues that we’re fighting for.”

Endorsements:

The PSC has endorsed the following candidates in their races for citywide office. Primaries will be held on September 12, and the general election will be on November 7. To find out your City Council district, go to council.nyc.gov/districts/ and enter your address. For a full list of PSC-endorsed candidates, go to tinyurl.com/psc-endorsements-2017.

 Margaret Chin  Council District 1, incumbent 
 Carlina Rivera   Council District 2
 Marti Speranza  Council District 4
 Helen Rosenthal  Council District 6, incumbent
 Diana Ayala  Council District 8
 Marjorie Velázquez  Council District 13
 Francisco Moya  Council District 21
 Alicka Ampry-Samuel   Council District 41
 Justin Brannan  Council District 43
 Dylan Schwartz  Council District 51
   
 Bill de Blasio  Mayor of New York City
 Letitia James   Public Advocate for the City of New York
 Scott Stringer  New York City Comptroller

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