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Open letter to Speaker Sheldon Silver

Opinion-Editorial

By Operation POWER founding members Inez Barron, Charles Barron, Peggy Washington, Adeline Bunch and co-chairs Tyrik I. Washington and Joy Simmons | 3/27/2014, 1:02 a.m.

Dear Assemblyman Silver,

We write to you as a community-based organization to express our profound disappointment with the closing of 10 Assembly district offices in New York. Allowing these offices to remain closed deprives approximately 1.2 million New Yorkers of their constituent governmental-related services; and it is also a fact that this action is a violation of these constituent’s constitutional rights.

As you are aware, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to call a special election to fill the vacancies of 12 electoral seats—two in the Senate and 10 in the Assembly. Brooklyn, in particular, has hundreds of thousands of residents affected by the four Democratic Assembly district vacancies. In November 2013, New York Assembly Members Inez Barron (D) of the 60th District, Rafael Espinal (D) of the 54th District and Alan Maisel (D) of the 59th District were all elected to the New York City Council.

Assembly Member William Boyland Jr. (D), formally of the 55th District, was convicted and removed from office this month.

“These four districts are majority Black and Latino districts and are entitled to the protection of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, as of March 2014, the respective state government seats previously represented by these Assembly members remain vacant, and their offices remain closed. Yet, it’s interesting to note that the two Senate offices remain open as a result of the approval of Republican leader Dean G. Skelos.

Each member of the state Assembly represents approximately 128,000 residents. The 54th and 60th Assembly districts are comprised of approximately a 95 percent Black, Latino and Asian voting age population. The 59th Assembly district is presently comprised of approximately a 66 percent Black, Latino and Asian voting age population. These facts support the contention that the affected districts are predominately communities of color.

As a result of these offices closing, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are being deprived of receiving help in their local communities—help with issues such as foreclosure, deportation, employment discrimination or seeking job assistance, health care information and affordable housing. Yet, they continue to pay their taxes—income taxes on their wages, sales taxes on products and services, capital gain taxes, property taxes and the various fees required to obtain a driver’s license or operate a business, to name a few.

Mr. Silver, we respectfully urge you to promptly reopen and properly staff these district offices to bring some form of normalcy back to the lives of these majority Democratic voting communities, or leave us to continue to believe that the well-being of these communities are of less importance to you.

Submitted by Operation POWER founding members Inez Barron, Charles Barron, Peggy Washington, Adeline Bunch and co-chairs Tyrik I. Washington and Joy Simmons