Local Elected Officials Brainstorm Ways to Serve Unrepresented Districts

Mary Alice Miller
By Mary Alice Miller April 12, 2014 12:38

Local Elected Officials Brainstorm Ways to Serve Unrepresented Districts

By Mary Alice Miller

When a constituent calls the district office of convicted former Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr., the phone is answered with “Good afternoon. 55th Assembly district.” In response to the caller inquiry on staffers still manning that district office, the caller is told, “No. Actually, this is the Speaker’s office. We are referring Assemblyman Boyland’s constituency to their local city council members.”

Asked if that also applies to former Assembly member Barron (East New York), Espinal (Bushwick and Cypress Hills), or Maisel (Canarsie), the answer received is “Yes, because now they are actually city council members. We are also referring to local state senators. But, because the 55th Assembly district does not have a counterpart (in the Senate) unfortunately we are only referring to their New York City (council) counterpart.”

Local state elected officials were asked about the impact of recent budget negotiations on constituents of unrepresented districts.

“I share deep concern. Before I voted on the budget I spoke to that issue in terms of lack of representation in those districts. That’s recorded,” said Assembly member Annette Robinson. “There is some funding in the budget that goes across the board. Even though those districts are not represented by a particular member, we and those who stood on the floor represented them through our votes. “

“Fortunately, because we make up the largest caucus – the Black, Hispanic, and Asian caucus – many of their concerns overlapped the concerns of many members of our caucus,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley. “There wasn’t any particular issue that I can say was left unaccounted for that might have been directly correlating with one particular district that doesn’t have representation. Caucus issues usually transcend district lines.” Mosley added, “Many of the issues and concerns that we have – particularly in central Brooklyn – were addressed.”

“Whatever programs there are in the budget we can hope that the people in those districts who are in need of support through those resources will somehow receive them. The problem for people who live in districts where there is no representative means there is no voice necessarily that speaks for them specifically,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “So, we have all of those people who do not have a specific representative who stands up and [advocates] to a commissioner or to departments that are going to be distributing and implementing programs and resources that are in the budget. There is no one speaking specifically for them.”

“However,” Montgomery added, “I am hopeful that some of the organizations in those areas will be able to receive resources in order to support the constituents there even though they don’t have a specific elected official. There is an assumption that there are organizations in those areas that will be receiving funding based on what is in the budget even though they don’t have a specific elected official.”
“We at the caucus are addressing it in terms of how offices that are manned can take up the slack for
those that are unmanned so that people can have a direct connection to a person who lives if not in the district at least in an adjacent district to address their issues. We are talking to the leadership to see how we can set up some kind of triage so that we can deal with ongoing issues,” said Mosley on the matter of constituent services. “When [unmanned district offices] are called, the calls go to 250 Broadway (the Assembly Speaker’s office). Right now we are trying to set up a system where we can have a closer connection to those individuals who are calling and see what we can do to receive the calls.”

Mary Alice Miller
By Mary Alice Miller April 12, 2014 12:38
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