CNY Vision | June 20, 2014 | Op-ed by Rosemary Rivera

It’s that time of year again, when we’re flooded by commercials from all of the candidates seeking office.

But, despite the tough talk and promises, it probably seems hard to tell who has our best interest at heart.

On the national level, Democrats usually get about 90 percent of the black vote. Republicans know this, and try to peel off at least a portion of that vote to take them over the edge.

That national average mirrors what happens in the city of Syracuse.

But, what do African Americans do when they vote for a Democrat who winds up working for the Republicans? Should we still consider that elected leader a Democrat deserving of our vote?

The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) is a breakaway group of state Senate Democrats that decided they wouldn’t work with other Democrats, and claimed they could get more progressive legislation passed if they worked with Senate Republicans instead.

Our state Senator, Dave Valesky, is one of those IDC members.

He and the IDC have given Republicans veto power over every piece of legislation, despite New Yorkers electing a Democratic majority to the Senate.

And, it’s clear that the IDC’s strategy has backfired. Over and over again, Sen. Valesky’s coalition with Republicans has been a roadblock to getting common sense legislation passed; legislation that would likely benefit our community here in Syracuse.

From raising the minimum wage to a livable level, to the DREAM Act, Sen. Valesky’s coalition has failed to deliver.

I’m sure when people of color pulled the lever for Dave, they thought he would be working with Democrats to ensure a majority vote on issues they cared about, like the minimum wage, the Dream Act, and restoring our democracy with the public financing of campaigns.

And, who is Jean Kessner?

This is a woman who spent 26 years as a reporter for Channel 9, and has dedicated her life to working with Aids Community Resources. Currently, she’s a city councilwoman at-large who has had the honor of representing people all over the city. She holds issues dear that affect us all, like the women’s equality agenda, and environmental issues like stopping fracking.

At this time, she is moving forward with a campaign to unseat Senator Valesky in the Democratic primary.

One thing people of color can be sure of is that, she won’t misrepresent them, and work with the Republicans.

No, instead she would work with people like Assemblyman Sam Roberts, who holds true to what the voters have wanted him to do. And he, in turn, has endorsed Jean Kessner.

Senator Valesky has said that this attempt to get him to come back to work with the Democrats is extortion. But, what do you call it when we, the people, elect you as a Democrat and, instead, you work with the Republicans who end up blocking important legislation that would lift up our communities?

I call that simple misrepresentation.

Jean Kessner is right to challenge Sen. Valesky, and people of color should join her and Assemblyman Sam Roberts in telling Valesky to rejoin the Democrats.

If he doesn’t, then we need a new Senator.

Democrats should be Democrats, not this hybrid mix that leaves our communities without voices and left behind.
Rosemary Rivera
Citizen Action of New York
Organizing Director
(585) 520-6542

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