By Kellie Leeson, Co-lead Organizer of Empire State Indivisible
Last Sunday while talking on the phone with a friend she asked, knowing I live alone, if I felt lonely. I was not lonely — I was angry, and that was even before the tragic death of George Floyd. I was and I am enraged by the absolute failure of our leaders, at every level of government, to rise to the moment.
The president is the disaster we all knew he would be. Anyone who was paying attention knew he would be terrible in a crisis. A man with no empathy, no shame and zero interest in the public good would not care if we lived or died.
All the while, Governor Cuomo has been gaslighting us. The governor plays the hero for the cameras while in the background he is cutting social services, including medicaid in the middle of a pandemic. The governor pleads poverty but refuses to raise taxes on the growing wealth of billionaires as the rest of New York suffers. At the same time, the state legislators absconded, telling us through their actions, that this is simply too hard and gave away their power, seemingly unbothered by the millions of New Yorkers unable to pay the rent.
And then there is Mayor De Blasio who was elected on a progressive platform, telling us about the tale of two cities and promising to address inequality. During the pandemic, we have seen how he turned a blind eye, refusing to care for the homeless, leaving them to become infected in the crowded shelter system, enlisting the police to enforce public health measures and ignoring that this would lead to violence against black and brown people, which it did. And just as we learned of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the mayor’s office was preparing a new budget maintaining most of the $6B NYPD budget while slashing social services.
New York City has already lost over 16,000 people to COVID-19, with the heaviest toll among communities of color. New Yorkers were asked to do their part, to come together, to protect one another from coronavirus and we did. We did our part. At the same time, our elected officials are not doing their jobs of leading. Instead, our elected officials are attempting to maintain a status quo in a world that no longer exists.
Mayor De Blasio says that New York always comes back, noting 9/11 and the Great Recession. It is true, New York does come back but it is not if we come back, it is how we come back that matters. We came back after 9/11 a fearful nation that plunged ourselves into two wars. We came back after the Great Recession with a wealthier 1%, crippled middle class and a decimated public sector that plunged us into Donald Trump. This is the time to chart a new course with justice for all of us, not just some of us, at its core. It is clear that our current leadership is unwilling to course correct. We have to take the wheel.