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The New Assembly

June 12, 2015

We received a call yesterday afternoon.  “You guys ought to check out the Assembly feed. There’s a great debate underway.”

We connected online with the expectation that we might be seeing the new post-Silver Assembly – more open and dynamic.

What we saw was indeed different. It was definitely something that would not have occurred under Silver. He would not have allowed a debate like this –  a bitter fight between Jewish and Black members over who was being discriminated against in a Rockland County school district.

What we saw wasn’t impressive in terms of substance.

A Jewish lawmaker said the Jews had won control of the school board in local elections and could, in effect, do whatever they want so long as there was no illegality. This is, of course, is technically true, but as a construct for good governance and community relations, it’s absurd.

Black lawmakers, one after another,  jumped up to say angrily that the Jews had “institutionalized racism” and were “oppressing black children.”  One even shouted:  “You’re lucky it’s just a monitor we’re talking about.”  This is, of course, an accurate channeling of the sentiment of minorities, but it’s equally absurd in terms of helping to improve the situation in the district, which, while struggling, apparently isn’t anywhere near as bad as many other districts.

What we saw wasn’t sophisticated in terms of process.

The sponsor of the legislation was a grandmotherly person who, after reading some talking points, floundered in the role of debate leader. A co-sponsor tried to come to her defense, but the situation was painful to watch. Especially shocking to us was the degree to which a younger member of her own conference embarrassed her with a series of questions.

The Assembly Republicans, meanwhile, looked like the adults in the room. It was the first time we saw Jane Corwin in action, but she handled herself well.  So did Ed Ra and others. The Republicans argued respectfully and thoughtfully. It wasn’t with the same intensity of, say, a John Faso in his heyday, but it was competent and actually on the merits of the legislation.

The Democrats – the ones who “control” the house – weren’t stylish. In fact, as one senior Jewish member was speaking passionately, a young Black member got up and walked out saying loudly that she wasn’t going to listen to his “bullshit.”

All of this back and forth – over a one-house bill – was rather surprising and disappointing for us. We couldn’t help wondering: This is the new Assembly!?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2015 7:23 PM

    BTW, the “senior Jewish member” you’re referring to recently went to a party wearing black face. Not exactly PC.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2015 7:28 PM

    I’m surprised that you people don’t see that the fact that is wasn’t tightly controlled and scripted and was honest, albeit awkward, is a good thing.

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