Karim Camara

The Empire

Lawmakers look at state budget's impact on New York City

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

State lawmakers are in Albany this week to pass the agreed-upon budget finalized by legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The $133 billion budget impacts many facets of life in New York, and probably none greater than the City of New York. Lawmakers from the Big Apple explained the impact some of the key pieces of this year’s budget will have on the city.

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State electeds hold hoodie protest over Trayvon Martin shooting

Monday, March 26, 2012

Karen DeWitt / NYS Public Radio

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, holding a bag of Skittles candy, is joined by other elected officials to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

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The Empire

Assemblyman Camara: I 'strongly object' to court's congressional plan for Brooklyn

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

In a forceful letter to magistrate judge Roanne Mann, Brooklyn Assemblyman and head of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Caucus, Karim Camara made it clear he was not keen on the way Brooklyn's two historically black congressional districts had fared in the judge's draft maps.

Camara has a two-fold beef: the district that closely tracks Rep. Yvette Clarke's district--a mostly ethnically Caribbean area--now shoots north to pickup the historic African American neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, while the Rep. Ed Towns doppelganger district is now shooting all the way down to Coney Island. To do this Towns' district has to pick up a large chunk of mostly white neighborhoods in southeastern Brooklyn.

"These neighborhoods have nothing in common – racially, culturally, geographically, ideologically or socioeconomically – with the African-American neighborhoods of central and east Brooklyn and it would be a grave mistake to include them," Camara writes.

He goes on to blast the judge for drawing both Congressman Towns and one of his rivals for the job, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, out of the district they've been running to represent.

Judge Mann's proposed Towns and Clarke districts. (Courtesy of the Eastern District Court.)

"The plan proposed by the court will short-circuit a democratic contest that is already underway, possibly depriving hundreds of thousands of African-American and Latino voters the opportunity to support the candidate of their choice," Camara writes.

If you look at the voting age population the Department of Justice would be looking at when they review Voting Rights Act-protected districts (the judge's plans wouldn't be reviewed by DoJ), Mann's maps would make Towns' district 51.5 percent black and Clarke's district 51.3 percent. Compare that to the Assembly's (51.9/51.6) and the state Senate's (52.9/51.1) maps for Towns and Clarke respectively.

So what would Camara have the judge do? "...Coney Island would more clearly benefit from inclusion in the new NY-9," he writes. "NY-9 could move south from the neighborhoods of Flatbush and Midwood, adding Gravesend and Coney Island. Eastern Parkway could then serve as NY-9’s northern border."

The Assemblyman then suggests Towns' district would "take back in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and southern Williamsburg, communities that were inexplicably removed simply to accommodate the addition of Coney Island."

Without a new map, it's hard to know how that would effect the delicate balance happening to keep both districts black majority districts. One thing is certain: we're told we can expect more push back on the judge's lines in the coming days as black and Latino leaders mobilize for what they see as an unfair process.

Camara's full letter is after the jump.

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Brooklyn state legislators introduce NYPD oversight legislation

Friday, February 10, 2012

Democratic Assemblyman Karin Camara and State Senator Kevin Parker announced today their introduction of legislation that would establish an New York City Police Department independent inspector general position. The office would be housed within the New York City Department of Investigations. As it stands, the police department's only oversight comes from internal affairs, which report to the police commissioner.

The announcement, which came out of Parker's office, used strong language in talking about the need for independent oversight of the police department:

In recent years we have witnessed serious abuses by the NYPD, whether for racially and religious discriminatory policies such as stop and frisk, the wholesale surveillance of the Muslim community in New York City and other jurisdictions, and the mistreatment of the Occupy Wall St. protesters. In some of these situations the public was given misinformation and even deliberately misled.

"No one is above the law, not even law enforcement," Parker said in a statement. This legislation seeks to restore the public trust and honor the heroism and service of thousands of officers. By creating an independent inspector general, the NYPD will have an independent watchdog to ensure the integrity of the Department like other state and federal law enforcement entities."

"While the overwhelming majority of NYC police officers are exemplary in their conduct and beyond dedicated in serving and protecting the public, several recent incidences of alleged abuse and possible egregious misconduct call for greater scrutiny and accountability of the police department," said Assemblyman Camara in a statement.

New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has been a vocal critic of the department's actions after a run in with police officers near his district in Brooklyn over the summer, praised the bill, saying in a statement, "No agency should be allowed to police itself, including the police. Independent oversight is essential to making sure we enjoy the best possible NYPD, on that serves all of our communities equally and respectfully."

Another Brooklyn elected official, Republican Senator Martin Golden, was less enthusiastic about the intent of the legislation.

"I don't believe that the New York City Police Department needs an inspector general," Golden, a former police officer, said when reached by phone. He said he hadn't seen the legislation yet, but felt that the department's internal affairs bureau has done "an excellent job going into its ranks" to deal with police misconduct.

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Assemblyman Camara lauds Cuomo for 'exercising leadership' on tax reform

Monday, December 05, 2011

The chair of the bicameral Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, Assemblyman Karim Camara of Brooklyn he was "very optimistic" about what he called "a great plan" to overhaul the tax code put forward in broad strokes by Governor Andrew Cuomo this weekend.

"For the last several months we were talking about having a tax code that was more equitable, having a level of what many of us described as fairness, lessening the burden on the middle class--those are all critical priorities," Camara said, speaking for only himself as the Caucus has yet to take an official position on the tax reformers. However, its members have been some of the most vocal in criticizing the Governor over his refusal to extend the so-called millionaires' tax.

The Assemblyman said Cuomo was not going back on his word on taxes, despite the criticism some are leveling against him.

"Some people may call it going against what he said before, etcetera, etcetera. But I look at it as, you assess the situation, you make the best decision for the state at this point at this time," said Camara. "I think he should be commended for showing that leadership."

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Minority elected officials, unions present united front on millionaires' tax extension

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Councilman Jackson, left, with Assemblyman Camara and other elected officials. (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

A united front of minority politicians and their labor allies held a press conference today to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep the “millionaires’ tax” on higher-income earners in place at the end of this year.

“New Yorkers deserve a budget plan of shared sacrifice,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, who chairs the bicameral Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. He said the current tax rate would generate $5 billion in revenues that could be used to offset cuts that disproportionally affect the working class and minority communities.

The Governor has said he wants the taxes to expire at the end of the year. Until recently any discussion of tax increases appeared off the table. But that was before the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Support for keeping taxes on higher-income earners wasn’t just among the protesters on Wall Street, said Councilman Robert Jackson, or among the 72 percent of voters who favor the tax. The co-chair of the city council’s minority caucus said the Governor need only visit his district in Harlem.

“If you don’t believe us, walk through our community and ask the people. They will tell you what is necessary,” he said.

The show of solidarity from African American, Latino and Asian elected officials opened up a new front against the Governor’s support for nixing taxes for the state’s most wealthy—and it could be a bigger one than he’d care to acknowledge.

Call it Andrew Cuomo’s color blind problem. In discussions after the event, the strategy was made clear: If the Governor remains blind to the calls of communities of color—through their elected representatives—he could have a problem that goes beyond a single issue like the millionaires’ tax.

The Governor has enjoyed a close relationship with minority communities over the years. But elected officials from those communities—upset over years now of cuts to social programs at every level, unshakable high unemployment, and attacks on unions that employee many from their neighborhoods—appear less willing to just go along with a governor they see more concerned with protecting his future interests (i.e. 2014 gubernatorial, 2016 presidential) than those of their constituents.

At least, that’s what today’s organizers are hoping Cuomo hears. So far the Governor remains popular across all groups, and community leaders haven’t taken as hard a stance as the elected officials. But if the Governor sticks to his position on the millionaires’ tax, that could all change.

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Upstate legislators eye major Medicaid reform, but NYC counterparts remain doubtful

Friday, September 30, 2011

Senator Gallivan, center, with Assemblywoman Paulin, right, announcing the legislation (Courtesy of Senator Gallivan's YouTube channel)

Medicaid costs New York a lot of money. The state spends more than $53 billion a year to care for 4.7 million low-income people. That represents about 40 percent of the state’s entire budget.

For years the state has made localities bare a portion of the financial burden of the program. In most cases the Federal government and the state split the cost of the program, 50-50. In New York, counties and cities have to pony up about 16 percent of the program’s cost.

The idea, initially, was that, since New York City was where most of the people in the program lived, suburban and rural counties didn’t want to have to foot the bill. But now these same areas are nearing a financial breaking point, partly because of mounting Medicaid costs.

Re-shifting Medicaid Responsibility

A group of state legislators wants to do something about it. Last week, State Senator Patrick Gallivan, a Republican from Erie County, held a press conference with colleagues from both the Senate and the State Assembly, to announce legislation that will gradually phase out the local sharing program, shifting the total cost of Medicaid back to the state.

“Upstate counties are in trouble because of property taxes, and the upstate mandate of paying a local share of Medicaid services,” Gallivan said. “Every single county, I would say this is their single-biggest consumer of county tax dollars.”

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