VID praises New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for his end-of-the year decision granting clemencies to more than 100 people. These included pardons for many youthful offenders convicted of minor crimes, and the commutation of sentences for several elderly prisoners, including Judith Clark.
The Governor’s decision was the culmination of years of effort for VID. New York’s venerable progressive club is a major sponsor of Candles for Clemency, which since 2009 has led a campaign for criminal justice reform. Prior to last week, clemencies had not been a priority for the Governor. Club members were among the organizers and participants in the movement to inspire the Governor to recognize the plight of prisoners.
“We are proud of the role VID played in making this day possible,” said Tony Hoffmann, co-chair of Candles for Clemency and a former President of Village Independent Democrats. “We have been and will continue to be leaders in the fight for social, economic, and criminal justice in New York City and throughout the nation.”
“This is a proud moment for New York. Our efforts show what we can achieve through our activism and commitment. Governor Cuomo’s heroic actions should serve as a model for our nation,” said Allen Roskoff, Candles for Clemency founder and co-chair and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
All the recipients of clemency have been rehabilitated and taken responsibility for their crimes. One, Judith Clark, has earned multiple degrees during her incarceration, and has taught prenatal parenting classes for pregnant women, co-founded a ground breaking organization to address the AIDS epidemic, and raised and trained over a dozen guide dogs for law enforcement agencies and disabled veterans.
“VID is delighted with Governor Cuomo’s just and wise decision,” said Erik Coler, President of VID. “We hope he will continue to release deserving prisoners, especially the elderly and infirm, who are languishing in jail because of unfair and inhumane sentencing rules of the past.”
VID’s March Meeting featured reports on the gun violence forum, the Congressional primary, an early voting bill in the NYS legislature and the Algonquin Pipeline. It ended with Club endorsements for Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton.
Forum on Gun Violence Panel: Richard Aborn, Leah Gunn Barrett, Joel Vatsky (CRDC), Nadine Hoffmann (VID),Scott Stringer (not pictured) and Assemblyman Keith Wright
President Nadine Hoffmann opened VID’s March meeting by welcoming Congressman Jerry Nadler, who is up for reelection. He soon left, as he could not speak at the meeting. She then reported on the March 1 Women’s Issues forum at the Red Room, participated in by VID, DID, CODA, Manhattan Young Dems, and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez. There had also been a forum on gun violence the day before, sponsored by the VID and VRDC, and featuring Keith Wright, Richard Aborn, Leah Gunn Barrett, and Scott Stringer, among others. And she reminded the members about the upcoming Candidates Night on April 7. See April Announcement
District Leader Keen Berger discussed campaigns in other states and candidates she was supporting like Donna Edwards, Catherine Cortez Masto, Russ Feingold and Maggie Hassan. [A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Keen Berger was supporting Chris Van Hollen who is Donna Edwards opponent. Keen is strongly supporting Donna Edwards.]
Nadine commended Erik Coler for meeting with Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh on the topic of early voting–the Assemblyman thinks Republicans are in agreement on this issue and it may pass in the Assembly and State Senate. Jonathan Geballe explained what’s involved in getting this legislation passed.
Jonathan Geballe, Congressman Nadler, Nadine Hoffmann, Erik Coler, Congresswoman Maloney, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman join the petition-launching breakfast at the VID Clubhouse.
Tony Hoffmann spoke about the upcoming Congressional primary on June 28 and the necessity for petitioning. A Campaign Breakfast, paid for by Congressman Nadler, would take place at the clubhouse on Saturday.
Nat Johnson updated everyone on the environment–on February 29, Governor Cuomo sent a letter to FERC about the Algonquin Pipeline, requesting this dangerous project be suspended until a full environmental study is completed. Nat described a circular firing squad involving FERC, NRC, DEC, and the EPA diffusing the blame by saying the others had approved the project. There was a discussion about Int. 446, a bill introduced to prevent fracking and its byproducts from traveling through the city–26 City Council members were needed to sponsor the bill. ( Pipelines leak methane at much higher rates than previously understood, and methane is much more dangerous to the environment than carbon dioxide.)
FERC had not responded to the Governor’ s letter, so Keen proposed sending a statement to the Villager and Cuomo’s office, which was unanimously approved. It was also proposed to send letters to Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Rosie Mendez (copied to the Villager) thanking them for supporting the initiative to suppress fracking. This too was unanimously passed.
Tom Connor, a rent-controlled tenant who is a chair on the advisory board of Greenwich House, a senior center, read a letter to Governor Cuomo regarding the unfairness of the rent raises to rent-controlled tenants, the majority of whom are senior women. Rachel Lavine, a State Committee Representative, asked about SCRIEE having a role. It was proposed that Nadine, Rachel and Tom meet to collaborate on the letter, and this was unanimously passed.
Next Jen Hoppe updated us on the Gala, set to take place on Thursday, April 28 at the newly renovated Tio Pepe. The Committee is soliciting sponsors, and invites are to go out next week. Honorees will be Ben Yee, former leader of the Manhattan Young Dems and current VP of the National Young Dems, someone (as yet undecided) from the Cooper Square Committee (addressing homelessness), and Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of NY (regarding prisoner’s rights). Nadine said the committee had wanted to honor Susan Lerner of Common Cause, but she was unavailable.
Nadine reviewed the VID rules for endorsement of political candidates; after much discussion regarding the candidates–
Jerry Nadler was unanimously endorsed by acclamation.
Carolyn Maloney was endorsed by 23 in favor, with 3 no endorsement votes and one invalid ballot.
Chuck Schumer was endorsed by 19 in favor and 7 no endorsements.
Hillary Clinton received 19 votes, Bernie Sanders received 9 votes and one no endorsement.
More than 150 Candles for Clemency Lit Up Mt. Kisco on Sept 26th
In a departure from his previous policy, Governor Andrew Cuomo is establishing a system to review requests to shorten prison sentences of rehabilitated prisoners.
Four days before a planned demonstration near his Westchester County home that had the backing of a wide array of elected officials, the governor called longtime gay activist Allen Roskoff, saying, “I get it. I get it. It will be done.” Cuomo pledged to review requests for clemency from state prisoners.
The September 26 demonstration in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco was the second annual “Candles for Clemency” gathering demanding that “Governor Cuomo get a heart; issue clemencies now.” Nathan Riley, Gay City News, Sept. 27
Cuomo chief counsel, Alphonso David, addressed the demonstrators and described the new review plan: “Particular attention will be paid to prisoners who received sentences for crimes committed at a young age, elderly prisoners who pose little risk to society, and prisoners who have served long sentences but have demonstrated that their release would not harm others.” The latter may prove controversial. David specifically offered the assistance of his office to help attorneys and advocacy groups through the clemency process.
You can also see video news coverage of the Candles for Clemency vigil by Diana Campbell on Fios News
Endorsements for the vigil included: City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, seven local members of Congress, and 17 members of the City Council, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The event was organized by Tony Hoffmann of VID and Allen Roskoff of The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.