Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Rob Kim/GC Images
It’s a great mystery — and to some, a source of anger — that New York has never elected a Latino candidate to citywide or statewide office. In the next few weeks, we’ll discover whether New York’s Democratic leaders will help address the problem by coalescing around one of three Latino candidates for the potent position of City Council Speaker.
It’s been done before: Puerto Rican–born Melissa Mark-Viverito was elevated to Speaker in 2014 with help from newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio. While it’s only the 51 members of the council who select the speaker, a wide range of special interests will help shape the choice. Party insiders are being explicitly asked to do something similar to make up for the lack of Latino representation at the highest levels of government.
On one level, special political assistance should not be necessary: There’s no shortage of raw political talent in New York’s Latino community. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the best-known members of Congress in America and the youngest woman ever elected to the body. She serves alongside other pioneers: Nydia Velasquez, the first Puerto Rican woman ever elected to Congress; Adriana Espaillat, the first member of Congress to have once been an undocumented immigrant; and Ritchie Torres, who last year became the first openly gay Latino congressman.
That’s not all. In recent years, Mark-Viverito painstakingly helped mastermind the unprecedented election of 31 women to the council, making women legislators a majority for the first time. Antonio Reynoso was just elected as Brooklyn’s first Latino borough president, and Eric Gonzalez easily won re-election as Brooklyn district attorney.
Even with all this ability, no experienced Latino officeholder tried to swing for the fences by running citywide for mayor, comptroller, or public advocate. Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, would have been a front-runner but decided not to enter the contest — and announced he is leaving electoral politics altogether.
The community’s only mayoral candidate in this cycle, Afro-Latina Dianne Morales, had never run before, and in the end got less than 3 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, finishing sixth in the early rounds of ranked-choice voting.
“It’s a problem because we are not putting things on the agenda that should be put,” says Eli Valentin, an adjunct professor at Union Theological Seminary who is a shrewd observer of Latino politics. “Political participation, which means potentially political power, proper political representation — that stuff is missing.”
The city’s fast-growing Latino population currently makes up 28.3 percent of the overall population and is soon expected to surpass the proportion of white New Yorkers (who are currently 30.9 percent of the city but growing at a much slower rate). If the city’s roughly 2.5 million Latino residents were a single borough, it would be New York’s largest — and the fourth-biggest city in America.
This exploding population has high levels of need. More than half live in poverty, according to city numbers, compared with a third of non-Latinos. Sixty percent of Dominicans and Mexicans — more than one million New Yorkers — live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which translates into an annual income of less than $48,500 a year for a family of four.
Latinos make up a disproportionate share of low-wage essential workers, like the deliveristas who bring New Yorkers our food and the carwasheros who scrub vehicles for tips. They have higher-than-average rates of chronic diseases like diabetes. And recent climate catastrophes Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Ida struck especially hard in Latino communities like Sunset Park, Red Hook, and the Lower East Side.
The combination of high needs and low representation were the subject of the recent Somos el Futuro political conference in Puerto Rico, attended by everyone from Governor Hochul and Mayor-elect Eric Adams to newly elected City Council members, along with an army of donors, party leaders, lobbyists and strategists.
“Hunger, health care, education, housing — those have been the topics of discussion,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera told me in an interview from San Juan. “There is a brand new class of City Council members that are incoming. So we want to make sure they understand the issues that are affecting the Latino population and, of course, make sure we have equity in representation.”
The City Council speakership — a powerful post with citywide influence — has emerged as a central concern of Latino politicians. Rivera is considered a leading contender for the job, as are councilman Franciso Moya of Queens and Diana Ayala, whose district includes East Harlem and part of the South Bronx.
Each of the three has unique strengths. Rivera, backed by Representative Velasquez, is a progressive who has spent time building relationships with newly-elected left-leaning council members, including at a reception she sponsored for them in Puerto Rico. Moya, who served in the state assembly, is considered close to Adams. And Ayala, a former aide to Mark-Vivierito, is supported by Representative Adriano Espaillat and has a compelling personal story.
“I bring 11 years of legislative experience, both at the state and city level, that can really help drive our economy back and really work with my colleagues to really get our folks back to work,” Moya told me. “I represent the district that was the epicenter of COVID throughout the last 18 months. We’ve seen the clear disparities in our communities, and we need to have someone who can really fight to build a robust budget that is reflective of all New Yorkers, so that we don’t have to go through the same thing that we went through in the last 18 months.”
Ayala’s tough upbringing gives her a special insight into how city agencies work — or don’t — for poor New Yorkers.
“I share the same story as many New Yorkers, unfortunately. I’ve been food insecure, I’ve been homeless twice. I was a teenage parent; my son’s father was shot and killed when I was three months pregnant, the night before my 16th birthday. I dropped out of school, I’ve lost other family members to gun violence,” she told me. “You can check it off — pretty much every social-justice issue that we fight for has been mine. I understand the nuances and government, how social-service programs operate, where they are effective and where we have loopholes. And I think that allows me a distinct voice in this race.”
Three talented contenders who have paid their political dues and represent communities in need. Is there room for one of them at the table of power in progressive New York?
Women-in-politics group expands province-wide – Toronto Star
See Jane Run, a grassroots organization promoting and supporting women interested in running for municipal office in the Saint John area, is expanding to help women across New Brunswick.
In a media release Friday, co-founder Katie Bowden said the municipal reform white paper will kick off the process for a series of November 2022 municipal elections. She said See Jane Run will be there to support female candidates and promote diversity provincially yet again.
“The 2021 election was a solid step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go before we see the diversity of our communities reflected around our province’s council tables,” Bowden said.
The sweeping municipal reforms mean 57 communities will have a municipal election next year, and 12 newly formed rural districts will elect councillors. Seven communities will hold by-elections to elect representatives for the communities merging with other municipalities.
Bowden said the 2022 election means they won’t have to wait another four years before working toward the goal of more diversity in municipal politics.
“We will be continuing to encourage and welcome Black, Indigenous, people of colour and gender-diverse folks to offer as candidates and join our group,” she said. “Ensuring there is a wide variety of perspectives heard both in the upcoming election and around the council table will be a huge win for our province.”
Formed in 2021, See Jane Run, which is run by volunteers, held a campaign college speaker series and private Facebook group for candidates and their campaign managers.
Along with Bowden, Rothesay Coun. Tiffany Mackay French and Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Brittany Merrifield also co-founded See Jane Run.
“There is no party system at the municipal level, so candidates are on their own,” Mackay French said in the release. “See Jane Run fills that void, building a non-partisan community of support around our candidate group, helping them navigate the election process, ask questions in a safe space, tackle challenges together, and understand how to be successful at the job they’re running for.”
In the process of becoming a not-for-profit, the organization plans to begin fundraising to offer its campaign college materials in both French and English.
“Municipal elections are part of the leadership funnel that will see us eventually reach gender parity in the New Brunswick legislature, and elect our first female Premier,” Merrifield said in the release. “It all starts close to home – and now is the time to start thinking about offering your candidacy next November.”
Merrifield won’t have to re-offer in the by-elections in 2022 when Grand Bay-Westfield merges with a chunk of the Westfield West LSD. The community will be one of seven holding a by-election to elect a councillor to represent what will become a former LSD.
Merrifield said the 2021 municipal election saw a significant uptick in the number of women running and an increase in the number of women who were successful at winning their election contests.
“The organization was key,” she said. “When you’re running municipally, there’s no party support. You’re kind of out there on your own.”
As a result, four of five of the communities in the region elected a female mayor and four of five communities increased the number of women around the council table, she said.
“We feel we played a small part in that. We built awareness about the fact that women in politics are a good thing for building your capacity for diversity around the table and better policy,” Merrifield noted.
She said women face challenges when entering politics that white male candidates don’t.
“Women carry heavy loads from a work perspective and a home perspective,” she said. “It’s about talking to women about the fact that they can take this on.”
Russia criticises U.S. over threat of escalation with Iran at IAEA
Russia on Friday chided the United States for threatening a diplomatic escalation with Iran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog next month unless it improves cooperation with the agency, saying it risked harming wider talks on the Iran nuclear deal.
The United States threatened on Thursday to confront Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency if it does not give way on at least one of several conflicts with the IAEA, especially its refusal to let the IAEA re-install cameras at a workshop after an apparent attack in June.
“I believe that demonstrates that our American counterparts lose patience but I believe all of us need to control our emotions,” Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov told a news conference with his Chinese counterpart.
“I don’t welcome this particular statement of the U.S. delegation (at the IAEA). It’s not helpful.”
Indirect talks between the United States and Iran aimed at reviving the battered 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers are due to resume on Monday after a five-month break that started after the election that brought Iranian hardline President Ebrahim Raisi to power.
The 2015 deal lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities. Then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Tehran.
Iran responded by breaching many of the restrictions, reducing the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it wanted to. Tehran denies that it would ever seek atomic weapons.
“The U.S. did not negotiate with the Iranians for a very long time and forgot that Iranians don’t do anything under pressure. If they are under pressure, they resist,” Ulyanov said, apparently referring to the fact that U.S. and Iranian envoys are not meeting directly.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean)
Extremist Politics Threatens Chile's Economic Miracle – Bloomberg
Chile has for decades been Latin America’s most stable nation and one of its most prosperous. Its pro-business outlook has drawn foreign direct investment and fueled economic growth, and its record in reducing poverty has been impressive. Much of that is now thrown into question. After the recent first round of elections, the two front-runners for the presidency are extremists — an ultraconservative who seems nostalgic for the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet, and a leftist who promises not merely to reform but to dismantle Chile’s economic model. It’s hard to say which of these agendas might prove more toxic.
The candidate of the far right, José Antonio Kast, emerged with a narrow lead heading into the runoff vote on Dec. 19. His platform is thin on economics and heavy on social conservatism and authoritarian messaging. His counterpart on the left, Gabriel Boric, promises radical change to combat inequality, rein in capitalism and dethrone market forces. “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism,” he explains, “it will also be its grave.”
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