Ever since this year’s Republican National Convention, I have been disappointed to see the disparaging treatment that John McCain’s presidential campaign has afforded community organizers. Especially disheartening were the remarks of Gov. Sarah Palin and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who plainly knows better. As mayor, Giuliani worked with hundreds of community organizers and saw firsthand the tremendous impact they have on neighborhoods throughout our city and across America.
Luckily, most New Yorkers dismissed Rudy Giuliani long ago. What I hope they will not dismiss is the valuable work that community organizers do in our city every day. For those unsure about the nature of this work, allow me to set the record straight.
Community organizers are ordinary people who work hard to bring neighborhoods together. They work at terrific organizations like Housing Conservation Coordinators on the West Side, Community Voices Heard in East Harlem and GOLES on the Lower East Side. By uniting neighbors in common cause, organizers help communities stand up to powerful special interests to preserve the integrity and character of the places we all live. They are the watchdogs of our neighborhoods, and I could not do my job without them.
As a member of the City Council, I work with community organizers every day to address the changing social and economic realities we all face. Over the years, I have learned from them, argued with them and often been persuaded by them. But always, I have depended on their tireless efforts on behalf of all New Yorkers.
As someone who repeatedly stresses that government should be “on your side, but not in your way,” McCain should know that organizers are the primary avenue through which government understands the consequences of its actions, both good and bad. McCain and Palin know this-they just don’t appear to care.
That’s because, in the last several weeks, they have surrendered their campaign to the same old cynical strategy of playing on people’s fears and uncertainties. The campaign has gone after cheap political points to distract from McCain and Palin’s discredited vision for America’s future. It’s the same kind of bitter, divided politics that McCain has always claimed to detest, and it raises serious questions about the sincerity and truthfulness of his message. What’s more, it belittles the intelligence of the American people.
Even more unfortunately, it disparages the good name of the hundreds of community organizers who have forgone higher salaries and better hours to preserve the strength of New York City’s diverse communities.
In response, I have contributed to the Sarah Palin Action Fund, a new fundraising effort created by community organizers designed to train a new generation of organizers. I urge all New Yorkers to do likewise at organizersfightback.wordpress.com. We can’t control McCain’s decision to exploit community organizers for political gain, but we can and should register our disapproval by supporting the valuable work they do.
David Yassky is a City Council member from Brooklyn and a candidate for Comptroller. He grew up on the Upper West Side.
Trackback from your site.