January 1, 2019

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v23)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
Some of us might have started the new year here in New York relaxing, binge-watching TV, tackling a hangover, or other similar New Year's Day activities.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, others are hitting the ground running in new roles, including Attorney General, Letitia 'Tish' James, the Empire State's first black AG, and the first woman elected to serve in the role.

James has been involved in politics in New York City for years, most recently as the Public Advocate. Before that, she was a Council member, representing folks in Brooklyn, and she previously headed the AG's regional office there.

Her list of accomplishments in those roles is a long one, according to her bio:
  • she passed more legislation than all previous Public Advocates - combined
  • as a Council member, she passed the Safe Housing Act, helped uncover corruption, and pushed through multiple recycling laws
  • she investigated predatory lenders, helped investigate the 'stop and frisk' policy, and took on businesses for human rights and environmental laws and scams targeting immigrants in the Brooklyn AG office.
Even with all of those accomplishments, and her stellar resume, there's one 'first' that's missing: James is our second female AG.

Barbara Underwood was the first.

Underwood was happy as NY's Solicitor General, a job she held since being appointed by our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo back in 2007. All that changed with Eric Schneiderman's mind-blowing fall from grace. And it's a job she's happily going back to, now that James is taking the top spot.

While she was our appointed AG, Underwood garnered a bit of fame for taking on the president.
She sued to put Trump's charitable foundation out of business, accusing him of running it as a wing of his private businesses and political campaign. Underwood also used the courts to challenge his administration on a multitude of policy fronts, including opposing its push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Trump referred to her as someone who "does little else but rant, rave and politic against" him, but all that tweeting aside, Underwood maintains that politics has nothing to do with it. And, his foundations is being dissolved and all funds will be given to real charities, which his foundation was not.

In addition to the Trump issues, she did some more traditional AG things, too, focusing on issues that may have direct impact on us: getting settlements with seven hospitals that billed rape victims for their evidence kits, worked to establish industry-wide Internet speeds, and took on your garden-variety fraudsters across the state.

On her appointment and being our first female AG, Underwood said
It's a special honor to be in that role right now when so many people are looking to this office to protect them and their rights. I feel privileged to hold this role and to do this important work and I'm glad that people appreciate it.
And Tish James?  She had a long list of issues she ran on -- zombie homes, reducing student loan burdens, the environment, the opioid crisis, women's health, fighting corruption, and more. But that's not all - she, like the Sonofa Gov, also campaigned against Trump and his administration's policies.

As we say goodbye to Barbara Underwood, I hope James (and Cuomo) remember that their primary focus must be on us, and not on the guy sitting in the White House.

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