Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Importance of the Symbolic Vote

This is an angry post. A vent, if you will. A reaction to the sham that is New York State politics.

The state budget has been approved, and education "reform" is a part of it. As a member of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), I and many others have been fighting back against the ill-informed and harmful "reforms" that Governor Cuomo insisted on. Prior to the vote, we reached out to our local politicians, sending thousands of faxes, emails, and signed letters to our elected Senators and Assembly men and women. Our elected officials told us they had our back.

Seems that some of them had a change of heart. Here are the Yes votes in the Assembly:

And in the Senate:

UPDATE (4/4/15): This vent is directed towards Ken Zebrowski, because he chose to "justify" his Yes vote; Ellen Jaffee's justification came a few days later; the vent is indirectly pointed towards  to David Carlucci, as he did not choose to publicize hid reasoning for his Yes vote.

Mr. Zebrowski starts with:
The Governor's budget, submitted in January, contained significant policy changes to tenure, teacher evaluations and testing. After a month and a half of public hearings, the Assembly passed a budget resolution that rejected the Governor's proposals. I personally opposed these reforms because I believed they put too much emphasis on testing and unfairly blamed teachers. As we entered negotiations with the Governor and Senate on a final budget, our unequivocal goal was to reject these reforms. Unfortunately, the Governor has significant budgetary powers under the New York State Constitution. These powers were further expanded by the Court of Appeals during the Pataki administration. Essentially, the Assembly is unable to pass its own budget bills or change the policy language in a budget without approval by the Governor.
and ends with:
Education is the number one priority of myself and the New York State Assembly. If we could pass a budget by ourselves, the Governor’s reforms would have been rejected. Unfortunately, governmental and constitutional realities sometimes force us to compromise, make a bad situation better and use the leverage we have to advance the best policy available at a given point.
So, am I to assume that the Governor makes all the decisions regarding something like a budget? That he just reaches out to the Legislature as a kind gesture? Or should we #CallOutCuomo here for what he is: a tyrant? (A vengeful, jealous, pitiful tyrant at that...) If that is the case, then, Mr. Zebrowski, your vote doesn't really count, as you have no power.

With that in mind, let's talk about the symbolic value of standing your ground. You close with education being your first priority - yet you did not put that as first priority when you said yes. If your vote has no actual power against the tyrant, than at least provide your constituents with the symbolic support of a "No" vote (much like Mr. Skoufis did - I man whom I respect much more right now). Instead, you caved. Sure, maybe you made a bad situation better, but it still remains a bad situation. I would rather have seen you stand for what your constituents wanted than see you give in. As history tells us, appeasing a tyrant never works - he only wants more. (For proof, see the Governor's comments against the "entrenched education bureaucracy" that he made after the budget was signed. Your "Yes" vote gave him the support and the opportunity to say that.)

Your voting record will stand, and those who DO put education first will hopefully remember your priorities when the next election cycle rolls around. Until then, consider yourself #CalledOut - you have a lot of work to do to make this bad situation into a good one. Do that, and you'll earn my trust ... and perhaps my vote.