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Council members for East NY, East Flatbush and Central BK all get A’s

By dkene
In Bed-Stuy
Apr 11th, 2014
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Of Barron, James and Williams, only Williams is a current City Council member, leaving their replacements, current Council Members Inez Barron and Laurie Cumbo, with A's in the district to maintain. Photo: William Alastrite

Jumaane Williams – Photo: William Alastrite

For their grit and voting record in favor of human rights, 3 New York City Council members – representing Central Brooklyn, East Flatbush and East New York – recently received “A” grades.

The grades were released in a report card given by the Human Rights Project (HRP) at the Urban Justice Center, last week.

In all 13 Council members received A’s. Former New York Council Members Charles Barron and Letitia James, along with current Council Member Jumaane Williams were the 3 highest scoring Council members in Brooklyn.

Grades were based on the 2012-13 legislative calendar which began July and ended last June.

Nicole Bramstedt, Policy and Research Coordinator at HRP helped create the report card. Bramstedt told EastBrooklyn.com, the report card is in part a tool for constituents to hold their officials to account. Its methodology was fairly straight-forward.

“We took a list of all the bills that were passed during the legislative session. We determined which of them were major or minor and we gave points for a council member’s support of major actions for human rights.”

A lot of factors could not be scored. For example, the grade scored does not factor in a council member’s discretionary allocations or participatory budget. Nor does it factor in the work put into daily constituency services, although the full report card does allow council members space to speak about both of these non-factored aspects of their roles. The score card stuck to bills. Last year City Council introduced a litany of bills.

“Last year we went through 187 bills and marked the names of Council members who supported them. During this time, we let the council members know what we were doing and gave them time to support a bill in light of our score card, so the process was transparent.”

A council member had to show a willingness to advance human rights issues in City Hall. According to the report’s methodology, there were basically three ways they could have gotten points by doing so. They could introduce legislation that did so, sponsor such a bill or vote in support of it. No extra points were awarded for a bill’s passage into law.

But council members did get extra points for reintroducing bills that had previously failed. Such was the case with Council Member Jumaane Williams. He scored major points for his dogged support of a bill to prohibit NYPD from using the administrative code of the city of New York, perform bias-based profiling.

The bill went through 4 rounds of votes before it passed, twice the typical amount of rounds needed to enact a municipal. “He nearly put his political career on the line for those laws,” said Bramstedt. So, in this case, the mayors veto, allowed supporters of this bill to emphatically score double points.

The scorecard is in its 7th iteration. It began in 2008. It has yet to figure out a way to fairly tally various intangibles like the hard work and political capital expended for such bills like the Community Safety Act. Yet, the highlight of Council members who exemplify this kind of purposeful representation should give communities like East New York, East Flatbush and Central Brooklyn pride.

“If the report card tells anything in particular to people in East New York, East Flatbush and Central Brooklyn, it is this. Keep doing what you’re doing. It seems these neighborhoods consistently elected council members who score well, in regards to human rights.”

Of Barron, James and Williams, only Williams is a current City Council member, leaving their replacements, current Council Members Inez Barron and Laurie Cumbo, with A’s in the district to maintain.

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