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Eight candidates spar on policing, recovery in virtual NYC mayoral debate



The eight Democratic candidates running for New York City mayor squared off Thursday evening on numerous issues, but their focus was largely on policing and economic recovery.

This was the first debate before the June 22 primary in which the candidates could explain their visions to voters. Whoever wins that contest is likely to win in the Nov. 2 general election, given the city’s large Democratic voter base. However, turnout tends to be low in New York City primaries. Roughly 700,000 New Yorkers voted in the 2013 primaries, which is about 20 percent of registered voters. For the first time, the city will use ranked-choice in a primary, giving voters the option to select as many as five candidates in order of preference.

A recent poll by Change Research placed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams slightly ahead of former 2020 presidential contender Andrew Yang, a businessman, 19 percent to 16 percent. Former city comptroller Scott Stringer, who has faced and denied sexual assault allegations, is at 9 percent. The remaining candidates — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former Obama Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and businessman Raymond McGuire are tied at 7 percent. Former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales is at 5 percent. The poll also found 22 percent of voters remain undecided.

However, another poll put Yang ahead with 21 percent and Adams at 17 percent. Stringer and Maya received 10 percent. Garcia received 8 percent, while Donovan and McGuire each won support from 6 percent of voters surveyed. Morales received 4 percent.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, took most of the jabs from his competitors on policing in the city, particularly from Wiley and Morales over his deep ties to the department and the size of the city’s police force. Morales also slammed Adams for dismissing young, Black political organizers who are working on police reform.

“Safety is not synonymous with policing,” said Morales, adding that the city has one of the largest police departments in the country. “Our communities are over-policed and under-resourced.”

Wiley, a former aide to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and ex-head of the city’s police misconduct board, excoriated Adams for suggesting bringing back the city’s controversial anti-crime unit and for his support for using stop and frisk, a program that was halted by a federal judge after data revealed racial inequities, as a policing tool.

“As a civil rights lawyer, all I can say is that there was nothing OK about [stop and frisk],” Wiley said.

Adams then said her questions show “your failure of understanding of police enforcement.”

Wiley said she “certainly” understands misconduct, citing her experience heading the NYPD misconduct board. Adams shot back: “I certainly know how much of a failure it was under you.”

“I told you all at the beginning of this race, when candidates start getting desperate, it’s going to get very nasty,” Adams added.

Yang, who has been consistently seen as the front-runner, took jabs in the two-hour.

McGuire pressed Yang about his reported comments that Black applicants may not be “the best fit” for his business venture, but Yang refused to apologize and said he did not remember making the remark.

“My administration would reflect the incredible diversity of our city,” Yang said. Moderators also leaned on Yang about his long absence from city politics. But the businessman demurred, saying he built a life with his wife in the city.

Stringer was queried on a sexual misconduct allegation against him made by a former aide. He denied the assertion but said women should have their claims heard.

“This is an allegation that is not true,” he said. “I hope the voters will listen to me.”

The candidates also discussed affordable housing, homelessness and public education. In February, the number of single adults sleeping each night in New York City shelters reached a record of 20,822, according to an April report from the Coalition of the Homeless, a local nonprofit. The single adult shelter population also reached records in 10 of the 12 months during 2020, the organization found.

Nearly every candidate agreed that decreasing homelessness was a priority with slight distinction to solve the issue, including the need for increased mental health services in the city. Yang, for instance, called for expanding supportive housing and building or preserving 250,000 affordable units. Morales called for converting office space to create space for the homeless, Garcia called for increasing the number of housing vouchers to get individuals out of shelters.

Wiley said she would shift $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget and invest in trauma-informed care in schools to help communities that grapple with violence. Also, Adams and Stringer were the only candidates to raise their hand when asked whether they would keep all-virtual school as an option in the fall for the city’s more than 1 million students.

The candidates themselves were asked to pick their second choices, however, only four answered. Garcia, who was endorsed by the New York Times Editorial Board, appeared to be the favorite. Donovan picked Wiley, Yang and McGuire picked Garcia and Wiley picked Morales.

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Former staffer sues over Colorado Rep. Lamborn’s ‘reckless and dangerous approach’ to Covid



A former staffer for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is suing the Colorado Republican for allegedly firing him for complaining about his “reckless and dangerous approach to Covid-19” in his congressional offices.

The congressman’s lackadaisical response wound up getting Pope, Lamborn and numerous other employees infected with the virus, the lawsuit says.

The suit, which was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., and was first reported by NBC Washington, says Lamborn and his chief of staff “often mocked safety protocols such as measures to distance employees from each other and the use of masks, and they minimized COVID-related concerns.”

“Worse, when Lamborn and other senior members of his staff became infected with COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, Lamborn refused to implement or follow reasonable and responsible COVID-19 protocols, resulting in the widespread transmission of the virus throughout both the District and Washington, D.C. offices,” the suit says.

Lamborn’s communication director Cassandra Sebastian denied the allegations to NBC Washington, saying that “The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment.”

The lawsuit describes Pope as a former Marine captain who served in Afghanistan and who first went to work for Lamborn as a Wounded Warrior fellow in 2019.

The suit says Lamborn “consistently disregarded ethical rules and norms that apply to Members of Congress,” including using staffers to do tasks for his wife and son, including moving furniture. The suit also says at one point, Lamborn “gave his son the necessary access to live in a storage area in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for a period of weeks” when the son was moving to Washington for work.

Pope said Lamborn and his wife were quick to dismiss Covid-19 in March of last year, when the virus was shutting down the country.

“In the March and April 2020 timeframe, the District Office staff had meetings with Representative Lamborn and his wife, during which Representative Lamborn and Mrs. Lamborn both claimed that COVID was a hoax and asserted that the pandemic was being used to alter the course of the congressional and presidential elections,” the suit says.

The suit says Lamborn and the chief of staff ignored Pope’s entreaties to let staffers work from home, and when there was an outbreak in both his Colorado district and Washington offices in October, staffers were told not to tell anyone.

The following month, “after an important meeting for Space Force that Mr. Pope had organized, which Rep. Lamborn had attended, Mr. Pope learned that Lamborn and two additional staffers (who had also participated in the Space Force planning meeting) had tested positive for COVID-19,” the suit says.

Pope said he found out they were sick “from third parties,” and then the next day, Nov. 19, he tested positive for the virus as well.

Weeks later, on Dec. 7th, Pope was told he was being fired for “an alleged lack of professionalism and abrasiveness.” The suit, which seeks unspecified money damages, contends that the real reason he was fired was because of his “vocal opposition to Lamborn’s reckless approach to Covid-19.”

That approach, the suit contends, “placed employees and others at significant risk of serious illness or death.”

Lamborn spokeswoman Sebastian told NBC Washington that the congressman “looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”

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‘Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable’



New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday pushed back against allegations that he sexually harassed a staffer by suggesting harassment is in the ear of listener and the intentions of the alleged harasser.

“Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable — that is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That’s you feeling uncomfortable,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo has been hit with over a half-dozen sexual harassment allegations from different women, including staffers, since March. The governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged that he may have acted in ways that made people feel uncomfortable. He initially said that was unintentional and apologized, but has more recently said he’d done nothing wrong.

Cuomo has said repeatedly he will not resign, despite calls for him to step down from the bulk of New York’s congressional delegation and dozens of state legislators.

The governor made the “uncomfortable” remarks after a reporter at a press conference pressed him on whether he’d acknowledge the motivation behind his alleged harassing comments were irrelevant.

The reporter, Rebecca Lewis of the website City & State New York, had pointed to Cuomo’s earlier statement noting that he may have made remarks to a staffer named Charlotte Bennett that could be considered “insensitive or too personal.”

“I said I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I never said anything I believe is inappropriate,” he said.

“You can leave this press conference today and say the governor harassed me. You can say that. I would say I never said anything I believed to be inappropriate. I never meant to make you feel that way. You may hear it that way and interpret that way, and I respect that and I apologize to you if I said something you think is offensive,” he said, before continuing on and saying, “harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable.”

Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, called Cuomo’s remarks “jaw dropping.”

“For someone who signed the law defining sexual harassment in New York State, and who claims to have taken the state’s mandated sexual harassment training every year despite Ms. Bennett seeing someone else take it on his behalf, Gov. Cuomo continues to show an alarming degree of ignorance about what constitutes sexual harassment,” Katz said in a statement.

She pointed to the New York State Equal Employment Opportunity Handbook, which says sexual harassment “consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation.”

Bennett tweeted after the remarks that it “is very simple: the issue is about his actions, it is not about my feelings. He broke the law (you know, the one he signed). Apologies don’t fix that, and neither do denials.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating numerous sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Cuomo, including Bennett’s.

Cuomo said Thursday he’s looking forward to talking to James’ investigators.

“I am very eager to tell them the other side of the story, because it is a much different story and the truth will be told and the truth is much, much different than what has been suggested,” he said. “And I’ll leave it at that for now.”

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