Early voting has begun in New York State. Let me direct. If you are a resident of this great state, I am asking you to vote for Kathy Hochul. We are being bombarded by ads, paid for by the Republican National Committee or another Republican political action committee, playing on fear of crime to get folks to vote for Lee Zeldin. I ask that you consider the facts. Has the crime rate gone up? The answer to that is: it depends – compared to when? What types of crimes? Where? Here is a chart (using FBI data) that illustrates that New York State’s crime rate is far below that of the United States as a whole and that it is far less than it was nine years ago. (New York is in blue, the United States is red – this is the most current available)
It is all about perception. I looked at current New York City data and again it depends on what you compare. Murder is down year over year. Auto theft is up this year compared to last. But, again, it is all relative because compared to five years ago, when crime was at historic lows, it has gone up. If you compare it to a decade ago, it is substantially lower.
No matter what your perception of crime is, what exactly are Republicans proposing to do about it that will make it better? There is no evidence that whatever increases we have seen are the result of ‘cashless bail.’ If the only solution to this perceived crime wave is to repeal cashless bail, it will not have the desired effect.
There was a reason the state adopted cashless bail and that reason has not gone away. We can’t have a system where persons who commit the same crime are treated differently because one has access to money, and another does not. One person can’t languish in jail while another walks free based only on one having access to cash. The current law may need to be adjusted, if there are loopholes or if aspects of it that aren’t working. In fact, it already has been amended. But, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The criminal justice system is flawed. We need to acknowledge the problems and not pretend that we can go back to some ‘good old days.’ There are no good old days when it comes to crime. I don’t have all the answers. I am not advocating defunding the police – neither is Kathy Hochul. It is a ridiculous notion, we need police. At the same time, though, we need to be honest about the problems inherent in the system. Beware of any candidate who offers simplistic solutions, on either end of the spectrum (from defunding the police to ‘lock ‘em up’). I appreciate that Kathy Hochul, despite the onslaught of these hyperbolic crime commercials, has not called for repeal of cashless bail. She has a spine – a necessary quality in a public servant.
I also believe that New York State has many other issues to grapple with. The more I hear of Lee Zeldin’s positions the more concerned I become. He is advocating lifting the ban on fracking. Again, this might sound appealing in the short term, but it would be a disastrous policy for the environmental health of our state. He advocates public funding for religious schools. This is another dangerous policy that in the long term threatens the very heart of our system of governance. We need to firmly re-establish the separation of church (synagogue, mosque or any other religious institution) and state. That separation is especially critical in education.
Since I wrote my blog post several weeks ago asking that you not be complacent, the race for governor in New York has tightened. I believe the fear-mongering and relentless advertising is having an impact.
It is essential that we be vigilant – and not just at the gubernatorial level. The same strategy of fear-mongering is at play in House of Representatives races. In my home district, the Republican candidate, Liz Joy, is portraying her opponent as soft on crime. The law that everyone is criticizing was enacted at the state-level, not federal. The incumbent Congressman, Paul Tonko, had no role in the move to cashless bail. Tonko has voted for the assault weapon ban and every other common-sense approach to crime reduction offered at the federal level.
Once again, I appeal to all to look beyond facile slogans and the relentless fear-mongering. Make sure you are getting your information from reliable sources. When applicable, look at the candidates actual voting record.
As a reminder, here are some of the bills Lee Zeldin voted against as a congressman:
Assault Weapons Ban (ironically, most in law enforcement support this), Inflation Reduction Act (but he takes credit for infrastructure projects and issues press releases to encourage federal spending in his district), Right to Contraception, Ensuring Access to Abortion, Women’s Health Protection Act, Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, Consumer Price Gouging…the list can go on and on. These bills were not part of some crazy liberal agenda – they are responses to problems and needs that most New Yorkers support.
Zeldin has downplayed the potential for rolling-back abortion access in New York State, despite his ‘pro-life’ stance, noting the Democratic majorities in both houses of the State Legislature. Please do not rely on that – the composition of the legislature can change (and has many times in my lifetime) and the governor has powers through budgeting and executive orders that can circumvent the legislature.
Finally, Zeldin’s close association with Trump is problematic, and it should be disqualifying. We in New York have seen Trump’s career – his multiple bankruptcies, his failures, his lies – up close. We know he is a charlatan. Somehow Zeldin overlooks all of that and refuses to hold Trump accountable for the damage done to our country. This alone makes him unfit to be governor.
I urge everyone to do their homework on the candidates (for all offices). Don’t rely on advertisements. Read their own words; look at their positions; if they have a voting record, check it out. And then vote – it matters.