We rise to salute the New York City Racial Justice Commission formed by Mayor de Blasio, that after two years of diligent work has submitted its final report on the measures—and ballot proposals—needed to speed us faster toward a society free of systemic racism and inequality.
This is the first such commission in the nation, but it still must get the votes in November to put it on the books and begin the arduous compliance to make it real and substantial. We would add social policy, particularly from the law enforcement agencies, and governance as issues that cannot be ignored.
Just to get to this step after 400 years, as one of the commissioners noted, is a wonderful breakthrough and the steps ahead are no less daunting.
Getting to the root causes of structural racism requires visionary leadership and sustained commitment—and then there is the awareness and the vote of citizens. And it’s good that we have an incoming mayor endowed with a sense of decency and a democratic outlook as well as a diverse City Council that we hope is enthused by these recent developments by the commission.
But as we have come to learn in America, just because it sounds good doesn’t mean the majority will cooperate and see the benefits.
Each of the proposed ballot questions is critical, but the third resonates with wide authority, one that requires the city to create a “true cost of living” measure and track “the actual cost in New York City of meeting essential needs, including housing, food, childcare, transportation, and other necessary costs.” As most New Yorkers sadly know, the cost of living here is more than 80% higher than the national average.
Now the commission through its commissioners and city agencies must launch a campaign to bring these ballot proposals before the residents of this great city, and we are confident, given the proposed improvements, they will do the right thing.
Mayor de Blasio has made it abundantly clear that “dismantling systemic racism in the City Charter that could strengthen racial equity work happening in New York City, inspire other cities to follow suit, and build a fairer, more equitable city for generations to come.”
Let’s heed what may be among his final words in office.