Candidates clashed this week over police reform and economic repair during a debate sponsored by NY1 ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, which will determine who will be the Democratic nominee for New York’s 10th Congressional district.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who currently represents the district that covers the west side of Manhattan from Harlem to Battery Park, is facing two challengers in Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to the governor, and Jonathan Herzog, who most recently worked on Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. Nadler is serving in his 15th congressional term and says he has the right person to lead in this time of crisis. His opponents say he has not done enough for his district, and change is needed.
Herzog is campaigning on providing Americans with a Universal Basic Income (UBI), ratifying a date bill of rights and quadratic voting. He says these are the right policies to end an era of stagnation.
Boylan made the case for her abilities by highlighting her government experience. In her time in state government, she said she led the state’s economic development, pushed paid family leave and helped secure a $15 minimum wage.
“Our congressman has been in government for almost 30 years, since I was in the second grade, and he has not addressed any of these issues,” said Boylan. “Instead, he writes strongly worded letters and gives empty talk. This is not the time for that. This is the time for people with guts. And I will keep showing that I have it.”
Reforms to Policing
Errol Louis of NY1, who moderated the debate, asked the candidates what personal action they’ve taken in the last several weeks in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and what reforms to policing they each support.
Herzog had a long list of reforms in mind. He said Congress needs to establish a federal standard for use of force only as a last resort, to mandate de-escalation, demilitarize the police force, enforce data collection, ban no-nock warrants, have a public database and end qualified immunity.
But he added that reforms to criminal justice would not be enough.
“We have to dismantle systemic racism and provide real substantive structural reform,” he said, adding that the country needs to implement a UBI as well.
Boylan, who supports defunding the NYPD to reinvest in mental health services and to mandate that police officers live in the city, agreed that more than police reform was needed, but articulated it differently.
“The problem with UBI is that it won’t deal with race, systemic racism and really fundamental issues. Every policy that we have has advantaged white people,” she said, adding that she is excited by the idea of a reconciliation commission, put forth by Rep. Barbara Lee of Oklahoma, to think about the transformational change in all facets of policy.
“It goes way beyond policing,” said Boylan. “It goes way beyond criminal justice reform if we actually want to change the destiny of this country and that’s absolutely what we have to do.”
Questions About de Blasio
Nadler said he’s been very involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and that he is one of the main authors of the Justice and Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds, end qualified immunity and create a police registry, that is currently before the House.
“It would do all of the things the Black Lives Matters people are asking us to do,” he said.
Boylan strongly disagreed.
“I don’t think the Justice Act is nearly enough, and in fact, why would we give more money to the Department of Justice when we are actually saying that it doesn’t know how to use the money,” said Boylan. “Our federal government and local government is completely out of whack on this and its unfortunate that the congressman is pretending he’s been engaged in this issue when in fact the last thing he did is put forward a blue lives matter bill and it’s very transparent what he’s doing.”
Boylan also called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to resign after showing what she called an inability to deescalate the situation.
“He’s incapable of responding in a humane way to deescalate situations and has put gas on the flames,” she said. “He’s made New Yorkers not only feel like they have not been heard but that the NYPD is able to run amok in absolutely every way.”
Louis asked Herzog and Nadler if they agreed that de Blasio should resign. Herzog said it was the mayor’s decision. Nadler said the mayor has handled the protests poorly, and that he exemplifies the kind of leadership needed today.
Louis moved the conversation to the reopening of the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, asking if the government has been able to balance the country’s health needs and economic needs.
The congressman said that his decisions are guided by public health authorities, and that the most important thing Congress can do is to enable people to stay at home if that is what health officials advise.
“To do that, we have to get them replacement funds for they money they’re not getting because they can’t go to their jobs,” he said.
He touted his involvement in passing the Cares Act, which sent stimulus money to Americans, as well as the Heroes Act, which would extend unemployment assistance for several more months, but is being held up in the Senate.
“That’s lots of money for people to pay the rent with, lots of money for home owners,” said Nadler.
Again, his opponents disagreed, calling these pieces of legislation failures.
“The Cares Act was an abomination. It gives people $1200 to people earning up to $75,000 which doesn’t do jack for most New Yorkers because if you’re actually have to worry about paycheck to paycheck in New York (that doesn’t cut it),” said Boylan.
She said she had proposed a policy that would give people non-means tested checks of $2,000 per month and an additional $500 per dependent.
Herzog agreed with Boylan.
“This is so fundamental because this is the congressman’s biggest failure,” said Herzog. “This is a multi-trillion dollar bailout to multinational firms with crumbs for the people. Congressman, you have been on recess.”
Nadler defended himself, saying that the unemployment assistance is covering 100 percent of peoples’ paychecks, and that just needs to be extended through the Heroes Act, which he said Republicans are holding up in the Senate.
“The Republicans haven’t passed it. I am not the dictator. I cannot dictate policy,” said Nadler. “I can lead and I have led.”