Progressive activists call out IDC members
by Patrick Kearns
May 30, 2017 | 1590 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A group of progressive activists protested outside State Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Crown Heights office last week, urging the politician and the rest of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) to unify with mainline Democrats in the State Senate.

Sherese Jackson and Sean O’Toole are members of Indivisible Nation Brooklyn, a political activist group. They both voted for Hamilton last November.

Jackson said her organization has met with the state senator asking him to leave the IDC. They delivered approximately 300 letters from constituents calling for the same.

“Right now, we’re supposed to have the majority,” Jackson said, referring to the 32 Democrats in the 63-seat house. “We are suffering and we are not protected against Trump’s agenda. We are not living in a blue state.”

Democrats gained the majority after last week's special election in Harlem. However State Senator Simcha Felder from Brooklyn caucuses with Republicans, so even with the IDC re-joining mainline Democrats, they would still not be the voting majority.

Felder wrote a letter to IDC Leader Senator Jeff Klein urging the IDC to rejoin mainline Democrats, but did not make the pledge to vote with Democrats himself.

Jackson said the problem of the IDC and lack of Democratic leadership falls squarely on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s doorstep.

“He’s recently said that he’s not sure if the State Senate would be better off with Democratic leadership,” she said. “Which is very unfortunate coming from the very leader that is supposed to be the head of the party.”

O’Toole also expressed frustration that Hamilton campaigned as a Democrat, only announcing that he would align himself with the IDC on the eve of the election.

“We want to make sure the message is clear,” said Juan Antigua, a local political director with the Working Families Party. “We’re calling for unity. We want the senators to come back into the fold with Democrats to pass progressive legislation.

“New Yorkers have elected a Democratic senate, Democratic assembly and Democratic governor, yet we’re not behaving like a triple-blue state,” he added.

Antigua believes with Democrats in power they could pass the repeal of vacancy decontrol, an issue of great importance to gentrifying communities like Crown Heights. He also believes the IDC working with Republicans is holding back campaign finance reform and the DREAM Act.

“These are things we would be able to push with a Democratic majority,” he said. “But this power-sharing with Trump Republicans is not cutting it for folks.”

Hamilton defended his progressive record in a statement.

“I am a proud advocate for the legislation communities I represent care deeply about,” he said.

Hamilton specifically touted his Campus initiative in Brownsville’s Howard Houses, which he said provides a holistic approach to education, including technology and coding, wellness, poetry, yoga and mentorship.

He also said he was working to end “broken windows” policing through roundtable discussions and meetings with advocates.

Hamilton added that he and the IDC are fighting alongside unions, seniors and immigrant communities on issues that are important to those communitie.

“Whether upholding women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, labor rights, civil rights – any human rights – both in Albany and on our streets, I will continue to advance legislation and on-the-ground action that makes a difference in the lives of our New York communities,” he said.
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