In Defense of Member Items

Maybe this shouldn’t come as a shock, but it looks like some of the earliest pushback to Andrew Cuomo’s plan to review member items is coming from within his own party.

Here’s a sort of pre-emptive argument that Assemblyman Peter Rivera of the Bronx made to me earlier about the standard that Cuomo might apply to determine whether member items — particularly those sought by representatives of minority districts — are in the “public interest”:

“I agree with the attorney general that all monies that are expended by the state should be in the public interest. The question that I have is there are several cases that have come out that question whether affirmative action is in the public interest.

“As a Hispanic, if the question is whether affirmative action is in the public interest and whether monies are allocated to various groups, like African-Americans, Hispanics, that service those communities that have been disenfranchised, I would hope that the standard that the attorney general is going to use is not the standard the federal government has used to determine what is in the public interest.”

So what kind of projects might be in jeopardy?

“I’ll give you a perfect example. We’ve given money to the Apollo Theater. Apollo Theater is African-American. Question: is that in the public interest because it’s going to a particular group, the African-American group?

“I do fund Hispanic organizations throughout the state as the chairman of the Hispanic and Puerto Rican Task Force. The bulk of this money goes to Hispanic constituents. So I have to be concerned whether he will oppose it.”

– Azi Paybarah