Why I didn’t vote for ‘The Big Ugly’ (the state budget)!

The New York State Budget is infamously and traditionally called “The Big Ugly” because it has so many “ugly” moving parts to it and the good parts are either watered down or underfunded. One example of a good part of the budget is Speaker Carl Heastie responding positively to our demand for 100 percent affordable housing. We define affordability by our neighborhood area median income. For Black and Latino neighborhoods, the area median income is half of what H.U.D defines as affordable. Heastie secured $100 million for 100 percent affordable housing for our neighborhoods, and only community-based not-for-profit organizations can apply for it. We need much more, but this effort is a start. In addition, while I fought for securing more than $100 million for CUNY/SUNY students to pay for non-tuition cost, $20 million was put in the budget for that purpose. However, this year’s $150 billion-plus 2017/2018 budget has too much “ugly” in it. I refuse to vote for a budget that fails to adequately address poverty, underfunds the education of our children, raises tuition on CUNY/SUNY students, keeps thousands of our youth in adult criminal court and in adult prisons and gives huge tax breaks to the rich real estate industry to build luxury housing in our neighborhoods that most of us can’t afford to live in—gentrification. Check this out!

Raise the age (watered-down)

We wanted to raise the age so that crimes committed by 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds would be dealt with in family court. This change would mean that all felonies, misdemeanors and violations committed by 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds would be taken out of the youth part of the adult criminal court and sent to the adolescent family court where they belong. However, the NYS Donald Trump Republican Party wanted to raise the age for only 16- and 17-year-olds, not 18-year-olds. Also, they wanted all felonies (non-violent and violent) committed by 16- and 17-year-olds to remain in adult criminal court and have only the misdemeanors and violations sent to family court. Gov. Cuomo (the not so closet conservative Republican who calls himself a progressive Democrat) and Sen. Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus (the sellout Democratic Party traitors who now align themselves with the Donald Trump Republican Party), both want to raise the age for 16- and 17-year-olds only, like the Republicans.

Unfortunately, the NYS Assembly, the NYS Senate, the Independent Democratic Caucus and Cuomo came up with this watered-down compromised agreement. First, they are only raising the age for 16- and 17-year-olds. This deal means that all 18-year-olds’ cases will remain in criminal court and they will be sentenced to adult prisons. It could ruin them for life.

Second, all felonies committed by 16- and 17-year-olds will go to the youth part of the adult criminal court first. The non-violent felonies will automatically be sent to family court, but, if a district attorney can convince a judge that a case has “extraordinary circumstances,” then it stays in criminal court. The violent felonies will have to pass violence tests before they are sent to family court. This requirement gives too much discretion to district attorneys, judges and tests in determining the future for our youth.