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  • Writer's pictureBen Yee

Beyond Barr - The News The News Is Missing

Hey everyone,

The news has been dominated by Attorney General Barr’s testimony to Congress and the Mueller Report, but so much more is happening. What’s more, our special section on (Democratic) Presidential Policy is back with new, major proposals from candidates.

If you like these newsletters, please consider making a donation to help us wrap-up the Public Advocate race. Your contribution in an incredible help and allows us to focus on civics and education instead of fundraising.

Our deadline is approaching fast, matching funds only last until the end of May. Until then, every contribution is matched 8-to-1, making $35 over $250. We’re also having an event on May 21, with wine, food and our writers! Find out more or make a contribution here.

Finally, thank you so much to everyone who already gave or got a ticket to the event. We are truly grateful.


A Look at the City Budget

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio released the city’s budget outlining his $92.5 billion proposal. The Mayor announced his administration had found $916 million in savings from a previous version of the plan. The proposal accounts for $600 million in cuts or unfunded mandates, including $125 million for families in need, $96 milion for election reform mandates, $59 million for health services, and $5 million cut from education. The reserve would be set at $1 billion and the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund at $4.47 billion.

The administration allocated $60 million for renovating city-owned buildings to make them more energy efficient.

The ten-year capital plan includes $16.4 billion for new or expanded education infrastructure, $13.1 billion for road and bridge safety improvements, $9.7 billion for affordable housing, and $8.7 billion for borough-based jails.

Endorsement Breakdown for Brooklyn’s 45th CD

With former Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams elected as Public Advocate in February, the race is on to replace him in the City Council. The packed field of candidates includes frontrunner Monique Chandler-Waterman, who recently earned the endorsement of Jumaane Williams himself along with powerful labor organization 32BJ SEIU.

Followers of the race long expected Williams to endorse another former staffer, Farah Louis.

Though Louis did not earn the endorsement of her former boss, she has racked up some respectable endorsements of her own, including Brooklyn Young Democrats, CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and the Lambda Independent Democratic Club, along with the support of Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Assembly Members Rodneyse Bichotte and Jaime R. Williams.

Underdog candidate L Rickie Tulloch has also earned some endorsements, including the Organization of Staff Analysis (OSA), the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 891, and notably former Assembly Member Rhoda Jacobs.

Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio originally backed Jovia Radix but later switched his endorsement to Farah Louis.

The 45th Council District includes Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, and Canarsie. The election takes place May 14th.

MTA Raises Fares

In case you missed it, Easter Sunday the MTA enacted its new fares by eliminating the discounts on monthly metrocards and purchases over a certain amount.


The New York City Charter, our city’s constitution, is being re-written. And not a small re-writing, the entire thing us up for grabs! That means how powerful the Mayor is, who appoints the Police Chief, how buildings are built - everything!

Believe it or not, the Commission proposing the changes, which will be voted on in November, doesn’t know what it’s going to do. It wants to hear from New Yorkers to figure out where the problems and the types of solutions folks want to see. So, three things:

Want to chat about what makes a good idea? Find me on Twitter @yben and we can discuss!


DCCC, Progressives to Meet Amid ‘Blacklisting’

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently outlined a controversial policy imposing harsh repercussions for consultants who want to work for insurgent candidates. Following a string of upsets in the midterm elections, the policy is designed to protect incumbents.

After mounting pressure from progressive organizations like Our Revolution, DCCC chair Cheri Bustos has agreed to meet with activists in Washington D.C. regarding the policy. Bustos hasn’t given any indication the DCCC would retract the policy, but her willingness to meet with advocates has pleased progressives. Our Revolution board member Richard Rodriguez recently met with Bustos and DCCC Political Director Haleigh Hoff, which eventually led to Bustos agreeing to a second meeting.

Stage Is Set For Nation’s Largest Bank Merger Since 2008

The potential merger of BB&T and SunTrust has drawn sharp criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown. If approved, the deal would be the largest bank merger since the 2008 financial crisis. The combination would create the nation’s sixth largest retail bank and exacerbate fears that it would reduce consumers’ access to credit.

It’s unlikely the deal will be nixed, but it provides 2020 Democrats, especially those on the left such as Warren and Sanders, fodder against big banks. SunTrust CEO William Rogers argued at a hearing that the merger would raise competition and claimed, “A stronger regional bank reduces the concentration of systemic risk at the top of the market.” Supporters of the deal argue it would create more opportunities for mid-sized banks to compete with conglomerates like JPMorgan. The new bank would have $442 billion in assets, while JPMorgan maintains $2.6 trillion.

Agriculture Groups Agree to Pivotal Immigrant Labor Policy

Agriculture advocates and lobbyists have agreed to a labor fix regarding farm employees. The policy would allow for a path to legalization for farm workers and at the same time expand the H-2 foreign guest worker program so farmers are more easily able to hire foreign workers. Farm industry lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers noted this policy is critical in drafting a more comprehensive immigration bill.

Rep. Underwood Introduces Medicare for All Alternative

Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood, the youngest African American lawmaker elected to Congress, has introduced legislation aiming to reform the healthcare system. The plan is in contrast to Medicare for All, which aims to replace the current healthcare structure. One of Underwood’s main arguments for her version is the difference in price tags.

Underwood’s bill, H.R. 1868, aims to allow more Americans to qualify for tax credits, expanding eligibility for premium tax credits beyond 400 percent of the federal poverty line and lowering premium prices for health insurance. Underwood claims expanding the tax credit would allow 20 million more Americans to buy coverage.

Russian Election Hackers Capable of Controlling Florida Roll Data, says Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida recently commented that Russian hackers had the ability to alter Florida’s voter roll data. The comments came on the heels of the release of the Mueller Report, which detailed Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 Presidential election. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is scheduled to meet with the FBI in the coming weeks regarding the reports.

NRA President Oliver North Resigns

National Rifle Association President Oliver North stepped down from his position amid internal power struggles. The resignation comes as the group faces investigation from the New York State Attorney General’s office relating to its tax-exempt status. The investigation revolves around the NRA’s potential financial and disclosure problems. Reports indicate North was attempting to oust longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre over allegations that LaPierre’s financial improprieties threatened the group’s nonprofit status.

Michigan Republicans Accused of ‘Historic’ Gerrymandering

Republicans in Michigan have been accused of historic gerrymandering by a three-judge panel, and the Michigan legislature must now go back to the drawing board. In 2011, U.S. Circuit Judge Eric Clay, a Clinton appointee, noted “the predominant purpose of the redistricting plan...was to subordinate the interests of Democratic voters and entrench Republicans in power.” The current plan violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, according to the court ruling. The court gave the state legislature until August 1 to provide a newly drawn map and have it signed into law. If state approved lines are not signed into law by Aug. 1st, the federal court will have the new lines drawn by an appointed special master.

Shooting at UNC Charlotte

The country was rocked by yet another shooting on Tuesday evening. Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, opened fire at UNC Charlotte on the last day of classes, leaving two dead, three in critical condition, and one with non-life threatening injuries. Terrell had been a history student at UNCC until dropping out recently.

Mueller on Mueller

House Democrats have released a letter, written in March, from Robert Mueller to Attorney General William Barr. In it, Mueller expresses displeasure with Barr’s summary of the Special Counsel’s reports that he provided to Congress. Mueller says the summary “failed to fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his report. You can read the full letter here.

It has also been confirmed that Robert Mueller will be testifying before Congress.

Lowering the Barr

Of course, the big news this week was Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In case you missed it, the seminal line of questioning is whether he knowingly mislead the country and Congress with his four-page “summarization” of the Special Counsel’s “primary conclusions” - so quoted because Barr refuses to characterize his letter as a summary. In doing so, he apparently to shirk the responsibility of releasing something which portrayed the balance of Mueller’s report, or of releasing a real summary supplied to him by Mueller.

Barr canceled his second appearance before the House Judiciary Committee today. House leaders have said they will subpoena Barr and, if necessary, find him in contempt and arrest him.

(Democratic) Presidential Policy

O’Rourke Announces First Major Policy Proposal

Democratic candidate for President Beto O’Rourke rolled out his first major policy proposal Monday in California. The proposal, aimed at combating climate change, would invest $5 trillion into a four-pillar policy plan.

The proposal outlines an ambitious plan combining executive action and legislation O’Rourke plans to introduce in the first 100 days of his Presidency. Along with executive actions, O’Rourke plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and to drastically move towards raising efficiency standards for buildings, cars, and appliances. Long-term executive actions would include a net-zero emissions carbon budget for federal lands by 2030, and adding more national parks and monuments to protect landscapes.

The legislation would ask Congress to allocate $5 trillion over the next ten years, a vast majority of the funds would going to improve infrastructure and encourage innovation. More than $1 trillion would be in tax incentives to reduce emissions and $250 billion would go to research and development. O’Rourke plans to pay for the plan by instituting a wealth tax on large corporations and the wealthiest.

O’Rourke also plans to support legislation similar to the Green New Deal, by calling for the United States to have net-zero emissions by 2050.

The fourth pillar of O’Rourke’s proposal focuses on combating the most daunting result of climate change, severe weather storms. O’Rourke plans to expand the federal crop insurance program, increase spending on pre-disaster mitigation grants, and propose legislation that would provide communities affected by severe weather to rebuild stronger.

Gillibrand Releases Plan to Fix Money In Politics

In her first major policy proposal, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has suggested a “Democracy Dollars” program similar to Seattle’s campaign finance system. The plan would provide every eligible American with $200 to give candidates in each Federal race. Any candidate accepting Democracy Dollars would be forced to limit all individual contributions to $200, leveling the field.

The program would be paid for by closing a tax loophole which provides a benefit for highly paid CEOs; those making over 25 times what their lowest employee makes, or over $1M, whichever is less. Closing the loophole is expected to generate some $60B over 10 years.

Though Democracy Dollars have been a popular idea recently, critics of Gillibrand’s plan point to very low participation in Seattle’s program, only 3.3% of voters took advantage of the system, and its failure to address the real avenues by which big money influences elections. It might be all but forgotten, but the U.S. already has a public financing system for Presidential elections. The problem? Barack Obama raised so much money he simply opted out, setting a new standard for campaign spending.

Though a public financing system could be increased to accommodate the new spending reality of Federal elections, such as with Democracy Dollars, the system still cannot account for the billions in unfettered “independent expenditures” which were unleashed by Citizens United.


VID 62nd Annual Awards Reception

Thursday, May 2⋅18:00 – 21:00


Please join us as we celebrate NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, True Blue NY and No IDC, and Frieda Bradlow. Plus, there will be a special performance by Sing Out, Louise!

HK Dems General Meeting

Thursday, May 2⋅19:00 – 20:00

CRDC Annual Brunch and Awards

Saturday, May 4⋅11:00 – 14:00


Please join the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club for our annual brunch. The brunch is one of the political season’s most popular events, offering a welcome opportunity to relax and exchange ideas with other progressives and Democratic officeholders in New York City. It also provides an occasion to honor those who have worked alongside CRDC to advance community, progressive causes, and responsive government.

(Real) Politics 101 With Downtown Parent Association

Monday, May 6⋅18:00 – 19:00

8 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038, USA

Living New Deal NYC

Tuesday, May 7⋅18:00 – 20:00

Indivisible UES Meeting

Thursday, May 9⋅18:00 – 20:00

1157 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10075, USA

Manhattan Borough Hearing on Charter Revision - Come Testify!

Thursday, May 9⋅18:00 – 19:00

New York, NY 10007, USA

There Will Be Wine - An event to celebrate and wrap-up the 2019 Public Advocate's Race

Tuesday, May 21⋅19:00 – 22:00

Please join us for an event to celebrate and wrap-up The 2019 Public Advocate’s race.

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