Guest post by Vickie Paladino
The sentiment that New York City is falling apart has broken through party lines and seeped into the rhetoric of nearly every official and candidate at the local, state, and federal levels. Our elected officials who, for so long, desperately tried to sweep skyrocketing crime rates under the rug seem to be realizing they can no longer do so. At this point in New York City’s gut-wrenching decline, everyone knows a person who has been impacted by crime.
In addition to the crime wave, we see our education system in a state of complete dysfunction due to a lack of transparency and a shifting focus to equity instead of excellence. We have a post-COVID mental health crisis on our hands, there is a housing crisis that is not being adequately addressed, migrants from the Southernborder are flooding the city, and our veterans are on the streets.
New York City’s quality of life has drastically decreased in the past few years, exacerbated by our completely inept and counterproductive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And people are leaving the city in droves because of it.
To say this is an urgent situation is an understatement, and has been for quite some time. It is going to take a herculean effort to bring our city back from the brink. The question now is, are we up for the task? Do we have the political and social will to put in the hard work necessary to get back on the right track? Or even to pull up from the nosedive?
There is much to be done, but it has to start with finally putting an end to the mandates and ensuring that what happened to our frontline workers never happens again.
The city made the incomprehensibly poor decision to lay off thousands of our most valuable frontline workers due to a personal medical decision. These are men and women who have been experts on their respective jobs for decades and possess a collective set of skills and experience that is, frankly, irreplaceable. Firefighters, NYPD, EMS and others with decades of highly specialized experience vanished almost overnight. And for no good reason other than a decision to not take a vaccine that, in retrospect, did not even function as promised in the first place. This is unacceptable, not only for the damage it does to our institutional knowledge as a city, but also as a matter of civil rights.
Just a couple days ago, a New York State Supreme Court Judge ruled that the mandates in New York City are unconstitutional and workers should be reinstated with back pay. We are making progress, but this is not over yet.
That is why recently, I officially unveiled my comprehensive anti-mandate legislative package. It has been a long road to get this legislation pushed through. For months, the members of the New York City Council Minority Delegation have taken steps to address this miscarriage of justice for all our frontline workers. We have held rallies to call for the reinstatement and compensation of fired workers and tirelessly pushed to get individuals their jobs back. We have been working with Mayor Adams and his administration. Since January, my office has been swamped with calls, letters, emails, and walk-ins from constituents in distress over losing their careers and livelihoods.
My job as a New York City Council Member is to create a platform for all of these people to have their stories heard, and that is exactly what I have done. My legislative package creates long-term systemic change to ensure that New York City workers and schoolchildren’s livelihoods should never be threatened again due to personal medical decisions in relation to mandates.
Resolution 341 calls on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would prohibit the alteration of terms and conditions of employment for all employees during a state disaster emergency.
I am working with the State Senate and Assembly to ensure that we preserve the importance of employment contracts. Emergency powers should be disallowed from fundamentally and arbitrarily changing terms of employment contracts, particularly union contracts. If this legislation passes and we are in a state of emergency again, the government will not be able to terminate hard-working New Yorkers due to a personal medical decision, such as a vaccine mandate.
Resolution 343 calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, S.7545/A.9342, to make the extension of certain local emergency orders subject to the approval of the local governing body.
One of the reasons that so many of our frontline workers were laid off is that local emergency orders here in New York City were extended without any sort of regulation or oversight. Passing this bill in the State Legislature would ensure that the City Council is a part of the process of extending emergency orders in New York City, the very area that the City Council governs over.
It is important to remember that we must work closely with our state government to make these legislative changes. Part of what we learned through this process of fighting for our frontline workers is just how much power New York City has given up to the state, and how we must reinstate our power locally. Our local elected officials know our city best - we are in our schools, on the ground, and in the field every single day, and we know how to use government power in the most effective way possible for our constituents.
Resolution 342 calls upon the Mayor and the New York City Department of Education to establish rigorous scientific criteria, including an emphasis on mental health repercussions, that must be met before masking is mandated upon schoolchildren.
Introduction 772 is a local law that would require the Department of Education to issue monthly reports on the implementation of mask mandates for the duration of such mandates, regarding the criteria used to determine whether to implement or maintain the mask mandate. The reports will contain justification for such criteria and note whether mental health repercussions for students are on the list of criteria. If the list of criteria omits mental health factors, the report will be required to justify that omission.
As a member of the mental health committee, I champion these two pieces of legislation regarding mask mandates because the mental health of our children has been completely ignored in favor of indefinite masking, and that is unacceptable. We are now finding out in concrete terms what we knew all along – forcing young children to wear masks harms their social development, stunts their learning, and negatively impacts their language skills. In the future, we must know why we are mandating masks and how it impacts our children, socially, mentally, and developmentally, before any new mask rule is proposed. We must also know that such a rule is based on tangible benefits, not just virtue signaling. We must ensure that there are limits on how masks can be implemented and for how long. We cannot just implement open-ended mandates that seemingly go on forever, regardless of any scientific benefit.
My four-piece anti-mandate legislative package requires substantial grassroots effort and momentum to pass due to the enormous political and institutional resistance to changes of this nature. The Left often uses the term “systemic change.” It refers to a fundamental systemic overhaul to address the root of an issue, which is exactly what this legislative package does. Call your Council Members and encourage them to co-sponsor and vote in support of my legislation.
Council Member, District 19
New York City Council