Can New York Still Be Considered A Free State?

 Originally published December 29, 2021

https://www.queensjewishlink.com/index.php/opinion/5768-can-new-york-still-be-considered-a-free-state

New York state Assembly members meet in the Assembly Chamber

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

- Ronald Regan

This is the direction New York is heading in.  Freedom, while not yet extinct, can certainly be classified as endangered under Governor Kathy Hochul.  It didn’t even take a generation - just a couple of years of constant fear-mongering and claims that the government can accomplish something it clearly cannot.

This week, Hochul signed a series of Executive Orders that removes the ability for local Representatives to speak out on behalf of their constituents.  Hochul’s rise to power may explain why she cares so little about the needs of the common New Yorker. 

Hochul gained a seat in the House of Representatives in an extremely Republican district because her predecessor was embroiled in a scandal (sound familiar?). Like Doug Jones in Alabama, who won a Senate seat because of the Roy Moore controversies, she was ousted by a Republican challenger at the first opportunity.

Her unlikely win gave her some credibility in Democratic circles, and she was selected to run on Andrew Cuomo’s ticket because she checked the boxes of being a woman and someone Republicans could vote for, two important boxes for Cuomo.  Cuomo’s resignation gave Hochul enormous - and undeserved - power.  Voters did not choose her; she stumbled into her position.

Yet with her position she is radically and fundamentally shifting what freedom and representation mean in the state of New York.  Once upon a time, being a New Yorker meant that you were tough, that no one could get in your way.  Now, being a New Yorker means that you are compliant and unwilling to fight for yourself.

Hochul has created crisis after crisis with her incompetent governance, and keeps digging the hole deeper.  In September, she mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers. Bear in mind, these frontline heroes were working throughout the pandemic when most New Yorkers were working from home (at least those New Yorkers who didn’t lose their jobs because of forced government shutdowns).  Many of those who chose not to get the vaccine had natural immunity from getting the virus earlier.  Everyone knew that if you fire thousands of healthcare workers, the inevitable winter wave would overwhelm the hospital system.

Hochul didn’t care, and she fired them anyway.  As of October, around 34,000 employees were furloughed or fired.  Now, in December, the Omicron surge is upon us.  Despite the fact that Omicron is not nearly as deadly as previous strains, the labor shortages combined with COVID panic spread by the Biden administration, Hochul, and the media are causing hospitals to get strained once again.  In Vermont, for example, the hospitals are filled with the asymptomatic because people are listening to their leaders and panicking. 

Hochul signed an executive order mandating that healthcare workers who are COVID-positive should only quarantine for 7 days instead of the previous 10.  There is no science behind this.  It is merely a political tool used to clean up her own mess.  She knows that everyone is going to be positive because of how widespread Omicron is (and how little the vaccines do).  The CDC did the same thing days later when they decided to recommend 5 days instead of 10 as well.  No study or data was provided to support the change from a medical point of view.  It’s all political.

Another Executive Order that Hochul signed extends the Disaster Emergency assessment until January 25, 2022.  As Jon Campbell, who covers Hochul’s office for WNYC and Gothamist pointed out, this “will allow the Senate and Assembly to meet remotely when the legislative session begins” on January 5.

While this seems inconsequential, it's not.  Assemblyman Ed Ra tweeted, “Remote sessions became an easy excuse to restrict and exclude public participation during the past 18 months at all levels of government. It’s also curious when an executive who travels the state daily tells the elected legislature please don’t come to Albany, it’s unsafe…There is no replacing the dialogue that occurs in Albany both between legislators and legislators and the public. It leads to people’s voices being heard and solutions being developed. This will only further empower the executive and we already saw what that looks like.”

In New York, under Hochul, and Cuomo before her, the voice of the people of New York has been greatly diminished.  There is a way for New Yorkers to get their voice back, and 2022 will yield many opportunities to do so.  This will only occur if New York has the will to make it occur.  Hopefully, by then, it won’t be too late.

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