Photo By| Flickr
By Asar John and Jeremiah Duffy
In a response to recent riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death, President Trump threatened to cut federal funding to Democrat-governed cities that include New York, and in response to what’s been reported as a spike in crime here.
The president recently posted on Twitter that his administration will take action in any way they can to stop “weak mayors and lawless cities” from using federal money while destruction is caused. However, one New York official says this plan is unconstitutional.
STATE SENATOR COMRIE AND QUEENS
“If you recall, the president tried to do this with sanctuary cities because certain municipalities wanted to make sure their immigrant populations would not be persecuted by ICE,” said New York State Senator Leroy Comrie of the 14th Senatorial District, including neighborhoods such as St. Albans, Cambria Heights, and Jamaica. “He tried to do the same thing he is doing now to withhold funding from them, and it was ruled against the law.”
The context of Trump’s tweet lies within a memo he released the same day and explains how the president would be able to execute his plan. Section Two of the memo says cutting federal funds to cities such as New York that are on Trump’s radar requires the Office of Management and Budget within 14 days to direct the leaders of executive departments and agencies for every agency to enter a report to its director, Russ Vought.
This report should describe all federal money distributed to Seattle, Portland, New York City, Washington, D.C., or any other parts of the mentioned areas. Next, the Attorney General, William Barr, negotiated with the Secretary of Homeland Security and Vought. These administrators then targeted the credentials of “lawlessness” defined by Trump. A report will be formed by the Department of Justice of those governments deemed “lawless.”
The lawlessness is defined in the memo as: “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities.” According to the memo, action must be taken within 14 days and updated accordingly every six months.
YORK POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR’S TAKE
York College Political Science Professor, Dr. Michael Sharpe, says that Trump’s move is “unethical” and that there is a way to fight it.
“This can be fought out in the courts,” says Sharpe. “But if anything, this is what they call “dog-whistling” to his base.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had a few words for the president in response to the threats, claiming that Trump has targeted New York since the beginning of his presidency.
“President Trump has actively sought to punish NYC since day one,” the governor said in a tweet the same day of Trump’s statement.“He let COVID ambush, New York. He refuses to provide funds that states and cities MUST receive to recover. He is not a king. He cannot ‘defund’ NYC. It’s an illegal stunt.”
Sharpe makes the point that instead of trying to fix what’s happening in blue cities like New York, he’s blaming people who are the victims of its issues.
“What that does by blaming the victim, he also helps to reinforce his law and order position,” said Sharpe. “And who is the victim? Black and brown and working-class people, which is ironic. Much of his base are working-class people.”
CUTTING THE NYPD BUDGET
“New York City is proposing to defund and reallocate as much as $1B from the NYPD’s $6B budget,” said Kamell Ellis, CEO, and co-founder of 1WorldFestGlobal, a movement that encourages a broader understanding of diversity and inclusion. “This money can be utilized to fund Community Centers, Programs, and CBO’s in Black and Latino communities around the city.”
Ellis says that the president’s disapproval of reforms related to the defunding of police departments and reaction to it by calling to defund New York can affect the billions of dollars in federal aid that the city receives each year.
“This would obviously cause the city to have to re-examine its allocation of funds in its upcoming budget and some of the reforms may be reconsidered,” says Ellis. “As a taxpayer, this concerns me because the president does not appear to be willing to understand that the proposals in cuts at the city level are the will of the people.”
Despite this outline of an official plan by the president, some are saying that his plan is unconstitutional.
New York City is just one of the sanctuary cities Trump threatened to defund in 2017. But a year later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the order unconstitutional.
“He is throwing out things that will scare people,” says Comrie. “For the uninformed electorate, it’ll just cause fear.”
Although the defunding is arguable according to executive limits, it seems as if the president isn’t dealing with the real issue by calling to revoke funds from cities.
“Defunding makes me feel like either way one way or another we suffer the consequences,” said Ozone Park resident and Adelphi University student Rodrigo Henriquez. “It’s more than the police, it’s the government higher ranks that need to be worked on. The mayor needs to take a different action to focus on the poverty sections of New York instead of the areas of the rich.”
In regards to the mayor, he also fired back at the president, calling the threats “thoroughly political.”
“This is just another one of President Trump’s games,” Mayor de Blasio stated at a press conference. It’s part of his campaign strategy. It makes no sense and it’s insulting to the people of New York City.”
Many others also share the idea that Trump’s threat is purely a political stunt, just in time for the 2020 presidential election.
“This is clearly a political move to help him shore up his reputation as a ‘tough leader,’ to continue to scapegoat Black communities, people of color and their allies, and to scare his partisan constituents into believing his narrative that America’s major urban areas are ‘on fire,’” said the Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences at York, George White.
The latest of Trumps’ attacks on New York came more recently at the first presidential debate. The president called the city a “ghost town” along with claims that it will never recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. However, that didn’t stop de Blasio from backlashing the president–again– saying “Doesn’t look like a ghost town to me,” tweeting alongside two photos of restaurant patrons dining outdoors at an undisclosed location in New York.