by Bryna Zumer
BALTIMORE (WBFF) – Protesters and supporters converged on downtown Baltimore Thursday afternoon ahead of President Donald Trump’s expected visit to the city.
Trump spoke at about 8 p.m. at an annual retreat of congressional Republicans, held at the Marriott Waterfront hotel in Harbor East.
He mentioned Baltimore’s “failed and corrupt” leadership, toward the end of his speech.
“We’re going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule,” the president said.
That sentence was the only reference to the city, about a month after Trump’s criticism of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and reference to Baltimore as a rodent-infested mess.
He also tweeted out a photo of Pratt Street at the Harbor, saying “Hello Baltimore!” as he arrived in the city.
Most of Trump’s speech cited what he considers many of his achievements, such as measures to help veterans, improve medical care and the environment and confronting gangs. He also took jabs at many of his political opponents.
Republicans at the event generously cheered Trump’s comments, and chanted “Four more years” as he came out.
He did not take questions from reporters.
The event caused some gridlock downtown, as city officials warned drivers to avoid much of the downtown area throughout Thursday.
At least one confrontation between a supporter and protester was seen in the Harbor East area.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX45 for updates.
The “Tax The Rich Bus Tour” is traveling across the country this summer in an effort to drum up support for repealing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and it made a stop in Louisville on Saturday.
Several local and Kentucky leaders — including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth — spoke during the press conference outside Metro Hall and highlighted their disappointment in the federal tax cut, which they said has benefited the wealthiest Americans instead of lower-to-middle-income workers.
President Donald Trump signed into law the Republican-backed tax overhaul in December 2017.
Considered by many as Trump’s biggest legislative victory of his presidency, the tax bill slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and temporarily lowered individual rates, among other provisions.
It also eliminated the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that penalized Americans who do not purchase health insurance.
“We need to be clear,” said Richard Becker, a union organizer for the Louisville-based Service Employees International Union 320. “By passing a massive tax cut for rich Americans, the Republicans made it harder for working Americans to get ahead.”
Trump and other supporters of the federal tax cut have pointed out that the U.S. economy is enjoying its longest ever uninterrupted stretch of expansion, with July marking the 121st month of growth.
But economists have warned the nation’s economic growth is slowing, with recession fears hovering and Trump’s spate of tariffs and trade wars causing unease.
And while Republicans claimed the tax plan would pay for itself, critics have pointed to a federal deficit that keeps growing, with the Congressional Budget Office forecasting the deficit will top $1 trillion annually starting in 2022.
Yarmuth is the chair of the House Budget Committee and was its ranking Democrat when Republicans held the majority in 2017 and passed what he called the “tax scam.”
“They said this tax cut will benefit the middle class. It will stimulate the economy,” Yarmuth of Republican lawmakers. “Well, the American people didn’t believe it then. They don’t believe it now.”
Yarmuth said workers earning around $50,000 per year have saved a “couple hundred bucks” under the new tax law.
“That’s not nothing,” Yarmuth said. “But millionaires are saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The bus tour also seeks to empower local elected officials, activists and national organizations to demand the rich and corporations “pay their fair share,” according to Tax March, the tour’s organizer.
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, and Kumar Rashad, a math teacher at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School, said tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are morally wrong when Kentucky faces school funding issues and a pension crisis.
Rashad added that the government should think about children in Louisville, where a budget crisis has resulted in cuts to pools, libraries and, most recently, crossing guards.
“Taxing the rich will not hurt them,” Rashad said. “But not taxing the rich will continue hurting us.”
The Tax the Rich Bus Tour started in Miami on June 25 to coincide with the first set of debates among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
The tour has since made stops in more than 20 states and ends Tuesday in Detroit, where the next round of debates will be held.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A traveling tax reform rally on a cross-country tour made an appearance in downtown Louisville.
The Tax March bus stopped outside of Metro Hall on Saturday morning as part of the “Tax The Rich National Bus Tour,” which is advocating for the repealing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Passed in December 2017, the $1.5 trillion tax bill cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
“Regular people are getting sold out. They’re getting sold out,” Chris Tallent of MAYDAY America said. “Washington is supposed to work for everyday Americans.”
Other speakers at the rally included U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Rev. Clark Williams of the People’s Campaign, Brent Kim and Kumar Rashad of the Jefferson County Teacher’s Association, Richard Becker of the Service Employees International Union and Sharon Fleck of Indivisible Kentucky.
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Tax the Rich bus tour made a stop in Harrisburg Tuesday.
The tour is organized by the Tax March, an organization that’s calling for reforms to America’s tax code to close loopholes for the wealthy and big corporations.
“We are now at a place where the distance between the have and have nots is at the greatest it’s been since the Great Depression, so we are headed toward absolute disaster,” said Maura Quint, executive director of the Tax March.
The bus tour started a few weeks ago in Miami, Florida, and has since made stops in states up and down the East Coast.
“As long as money is speech and bribery is legal, the voice of the people will not be heard.”
A group of activists dedicated to ending corruption in Pennsylvania politics temporarily shut down the the statehouse in Harrisburg Monday after a five-day march from Philadelphia.
Members of the MarchOnHarrisburg group staged a rally outside the statehouse before eight activists from the organization disrupted statehouse proceedings.
The group wants Pennsylvania to pass HB 1291, or Gift Ban legislation, to curtail the power and influence lobbyists have over state lawmakers.
“H.B. 1291 would make it illegal for lobbyists to bribe Pennsylvania legislators with gifts like cars, vacations, and fancy meals,” the group explained in a statement.
Pennsylvania is one of eight states that has no limit on the amount of gifts lobbyists can give legislators.
“Our legislators cannot serve both money and people,” said Rabbi Michael Pollack, the organization’s executive director. “As long as money is speech and bribery is legal, the voice of the people will not be heard.”
The activists littered the chamber with 500 one-dollar bills, chanted anti-corruption slogans, and dropped a banner from the balcony reading “Some are guilty; all are responsible.”
In all, 20 members of the group, including Pollack, were arrested—12 outside and eight inside the chamber.
Speaker Mike Turzai, a Republican, met with activists after the arrests and told them he supported the legislation.
“I’m in favor of a gift ban,” said Turzai.
In a statement, MarchOnHarrisburg communications director Emmie DiCicco said that the speaker’s support needed to be backed up by action.
“While we are pleased that Speaker Turzai publicly supports a gift ban, if H.B. 1291 does not pass into law this session, his statement would become yet another example of the hypocrisy of Harrisburg,” said DiCicco. “We want more than supportive statements; we want action.”
The group plans to continue pushing for change in the statehouse.
As big-dollar political donors recently gathered at a TriBeCa wine bar to honor one of the country’s most powerful black state lawmakers, protesters converged outside.
Waving signs and chanting, shouting to be heard in the bar’s darkened interior, they demanded an end to big money in politics. They were Democratic activists — and their target was one of their own: Carl E. Heastie, the Democratic speaker of the New York State Assembly.
But they also had to shout over the sound of counterprotesters: an equally sized group of black community leaders, who had assembled to support the speaker and denounce the activists.
The progressive movement in New York has been credited with overturning politics in Albany: The Legislature is now under Democratic control for only the third time in 50 years. But the progressive push, fueled by many newly energized activists, has also alienated some of the party’s old guard of black leaders, igniting an internal battle with racial overtones.
Black community leaders have leveled accusations of paternalism. Black lawmakers have warned of a gulf between activists’ priorities and those of their constituents. Even black activists who are part of the insurgent wing have cautioned of overreach by white progressives.
“People talk about how black lives matter,” said Charlie King, a longtime Democratic operative and a former senior campaign adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “Well, black leadership matters. If white progressives can’t respect that, they will be made to respect that.”
Since President Trump’s election in 2016, Democrats nationwide have grappled with whether a new wave of progressive energy — fueled in large part by young people and well-off white suburban women — represents black voters, the longtime pillars of the Democratic Party.
In New York, the debate has taken on particular weight. Black Democrats now lead both houses of the State Legislature, after years of Republican opposition. In the Assembly especially, black lawmakers have risen under Mr. Heastie’s leadership, as have those with ties to the Bronx County political machine that Mr. Heastie once led.
Some of those freshly cemented power brokers are now bristling at the suggestion by newly prominent activists and elected officials that they have not been progressive enough on issues like rent regulation, new taxes on the ultrawealthy and campaign finance reform.
They call such criticisms misplaced and racially charged, and they suggest that the activists do not represent the communities they claim to speak for.
“What the driving force of this movement cares about isn’t what communities of color care about,” said State Senator Brian Benjamin, a black Democrat who represents Harlem.
The issue came to a head outside Mr. Heastie’s fund-raiser last month, when progressive activist groups like Indivisible and Rise and Resist, which formed after the 2016 presidential election, organized a protest. Black leaders arrived to counterprotest.
The dueling groups lined up on opposite sides of a sidewalk: the protesting activists, many of them white, facing the counterprotesters, all black.
The activists “don’t look like us, don’t live with us,” said the Rev. Troy DeCohen, a pastor who leads the United Black Clergy of Westchester.
“What they’re trying to do is co-opt what historically has been rooted in the black community,” he added, referring to the black community’s history of social justice activism.
The new groups draw strong support in primarily white neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Westchester. Several of the protesters at Mr. Heastie’s fund-raiser lived in the West Village.
Some of the candidates backed by the new groups last year, though diverse in race and gender, won significantly more votes in gentrifying areas of Brooklyn and Queens than in predominantly black or brown neighborhoods. Their rivals had accused them of siding with gentrifiers over poorer communities.
But the groups also include members from diverse demographics; local chapters dot the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. They support racial justice priorities such as criminal justice reform and more school funding.
They also work closely with unions and longer-standing activist groups that are well known for representing — and being led by — working-class people of color.
“I was deeply offended by the suggestion that it was only white progressives,” said Jawanza Williams, the lead organizer for VOCAL-NY, which focuses on issues like criminal justice and homelessness.
Mr. Williams, who is black and formerly homeless, helped lead the protest outside of Mr. Heastie’s fund-raiser. “It erases the struggle of black organizers who are progressive.”
The protesters at the fund-raiser emphasized that their criticism was not of the Assembly speaker as a black man, but for the role they said he played in delaying campaign finance reform.
“What struck a chord was the hypocrisy,” Livvie Mann, of the group Rise and Resist, said of Mr. Heastie. Ms. Mann, who is white, organized the protest. “Days after the budget, he does a huge fund-raiser, and it felt like a slap in the face.”
Kirsten John Foy, president of the activism group Arc of Justice and one of the organizers of the counterprotest, said he agreed with the need to get big money out of politics. But he took issue with the protesters’ tactics and their lack of diversity.
Mr. DeCohen said black members of the activist groups had been “brainwashed.” He added, “We always call them the Uncle Toms.”
Jason Walker, VOCAL-NY’s campaign director, replied that he was surprised to “see the black faith leaders take the playbook” of racial division.
“As a black millennial and a progressive, I’m looking for my leaders to set up the next generation to win,” he said.
Mr. Heastie, in brief comments to reporters as he entered the fund-raiser, brushed off the criticism. The political action committee for which he was fund-raising gave $50,000 last year to help elect more Democrats to the Senate.
“History will show that the Democratic Assembly has always been the progressive champions,” he said. “That’s what people should be looking at, on the actions that we take.”
The tension arrives at a key moment in New York history: Along with Mr. Heastie’s historic ascent to the speakership, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins this year became the first black woman to lead the State Senate. Democrats had seized control of both chambers of the Legislature on a promise to quickly enact sweeping change.
But the party has disagreed about what changes, when, and in what order.
The $175 billion state budget passed on April 1 included major progressive victories, including limiting cash bail and releasing money for the city’s public housing system. The black leaders said those achievements should be celebrated, and suggested that campaign finance reform was a lower-priority issue.
“I’ve never had one person in Central Harlem and East Harlem say, ‘Brian Benjamin, go to Albany and get me public financing,’” said Mr. Benjamin, the state senator, though he said he supports the idea. “They want affordable housing, money for education and criminal justice reform.”
But proponents of public financing said getting big money out of politics would make other progressive goals possible.
Ricky Silver, a lead organizer of the group Empire State Indivisible, called public financing the “tip of the arrowhead as it relates to all progressive issues.” Studies have shown that donor diversity increases in public matching systems.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote a recent opinion piece calling the policy a potential “game changer.”
White activists also defended their right to criticize Mr. Heastie.
“He, as the leader of the Assembly, represents the entire state,” said Paul Rabin, a member of the group Rise and Resist.
Still, several black leaders who were not at the protest said that while they agreed with the activist groups’ goals, the groups should be conscious of how their actions might appear to observers.
L. Joy Williams, the president of the Brooklyn N.A.A.C.P., said “optics and public perception” of the issues activists were fighting for could sidetrack their cause, rather than advance it.
Jamaal T. Bailey, a state senator who represents the Bronx and Westchester and considers Mr. Heastie his political mentor, said Democrats should focus on party unity, citing lyrics from the Jay-Z song “Family Feud.” “Nobody wins when the family feuds,” he said. “What’s better than one Democratic majority? Two.”
Even black activists who have been heavily involved with the new activist groups warned that certain voices should be careful not to drown out others.
Sherese Jackson, who until recently was the only nonwhite board member of Indivisible Nation BK, an activist group in Brooklyn formed after 2016, said the group often discusses how to increase diversity. But the discussions had yet to turn into real change.
“It is definitely a struggle as a woman of a color,” she said, “feeling 100 percent safe in a mostly white, progressive world.”
Events such as the protest against Mr. Heastie, even if well intentioned, could further deter nonwhite people from joining, she said.
“The visual alone — I could see how that could come across to people, and it could be a turnoff,” Ms. Jackson said. “This does not help the trust factor.”
Issues such as campaign-finance reform are dividing members, prompting vows to support challenges to incumbents at the next election.
The next state elections are 19 months away, but divides within the Democratic base are already roiling the party’s elected officials in Albany. One could see it in dueling demonstrations on a cobble-stoned street in Manhattan last week, when about 50 people protested at a campaign fundraiser hosted by state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. They inflated a man in a yellow hazmat suit, staging a “corruption cleanup” outside the wine bar Terroir Tribeca to criticize Mr. Heastie for taking large contributions, particularly from real-estate interests, while legislators prepare to tackle the renewal of New York City’s rent regulations.
Claire Ullman of Rise and Resist, a progressive political organization, said campaign-finance reform and a system where public money matches small contributions underpinned action in other policy areas. If officials like Mr. Heastie were accountable to small donors instead of the lobbyists at the fundraiser, they would enact policies that favored tenants and workers, Ms. Ullman said.
Another 20 people held a counter-demonstration in support of the speaker. Kirsten John Foy of the Arc of Justice, a civil rights group, said Mr. Heastie had been a progressive champion and just pushed to increase school funding and significantly reduce the use of cash bail.
The two groups of protesters shouted competing chants as about 100 people inside the fundraiser sipped wine and nibbled on stuffed mushrooms, pigs-in-a-blanket, popcorn and chips.
When they passed the budget two weeks ago, state lawmakers punted decisions on public campaign financing to a commission that will issue a report in December. Mr. Heastie expressed doubts about public financing during budget talks, and Ms. Ullman blamed him for the punt. She said her group would support primary challenges to incumbent Democrats next year if there wasn’t substantive campaign-finance reform.
Mr. Heastie shrugged off the threat of primary challenges, and said on his way into the event that his PAC in 2018 helped flip the state Senate into Democratic hands. He said he wasn’t accepting money from real-estate interests.
Similar tensions are bubbling within the state Senate Democratic conference. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Wednesday warned some of the newer, more progressive members of her conference about publicly encouraging challenges to incumbent Democrats.
After that huddle, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a progressive newcomer who recently accused some fellow legislators of being “captured by lobbyist influence,” had a heated exchange with longtime Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker, four people familiar with the incident said. Before the blowup, Mr. Parker affirmed Ms. Stewart-Cousins’ point and said the words of individual members reflected on everyone.
Then Ms. Biaggi brought up a December tweet from Mr. Parker in which he told a Republican aide to kill herself. Mr. Parker eventually apologized for the tweet, and a spokesman for Ms. Stewart-Cousins said the leader had talked with him about it. Ultimately, Mr. Parker stormed out of the Wednesday meeting. He declined to comment.
Ms. Biaggi said in a Friday statement said that Mr. Parker’s tweet had made her uncomfortable but she didn’t speak out against him at the time.
“I had held my tongue because I understood that leadership was handling it. Nothing else,” Ms. Biaggi said in a statement on Friday.
TIED UP: And then there were two: Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Long Island, joined Sen. John Liu last week in participating in a formal floor session without wearing a necktie.
Mr. Liu, a freshman Democrat from Queens, created a stir among some of his fellow senators when he began attending sessions without a tie in January. He said he doesn’t like neckties, and he thought the chamber was very hot.
Mr. Boyle said he was forced to wear a tie while a member of the Assembly, and felt social pressure to keep doing so as a senator. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan walked up to him on the floor Tuesday and gave him a tie to put on, but Mr. Boyle declined.
“I’m sure there was one senator who walked on the floor without mutton chops 100 years ago and was the first to do so. Times change and fashions change,” Mr. Boyle said.
A spokesman for Mr. Flanagan said he believed customs are important. A spokesman for Ms. Stewart-Cousins said there was no formal policy requiring neck-ware in the chamber.
THE QUESTION: What is former Gov. George E. Pataki’s middle name?
LAST WEEK’S ANSWER: The Tappan Zee Bridge was built at one of the widest points in the Hudson River because the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has exclusive rights for toll revenue on crossings within 25 miles of the Statue of Liberty. The Tappan Zee was built by the Thruway Authority, and chose the site because it was narrowly outside the Port’s sphere of influence.
Corrections & Amplifications
Kirsten John Foy is affiliated with the Arc of Justice, a civil rights group. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he was affiliated with the National Action Network. (April 14, 2019.)
Loud, sign-waving protesters greeted State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Thursday evening as he made his way along Harrison Street to the fundraiser he was throwing at the Tribeca restaurant Terroir.
Chanting “We gotta get big money out of politics!” a coalition of groups led by Rise and Resist crowded outside the restaurant where guests paid $500 to $25,000 to the Speaker Heastie PAC for a chance to sip cocktails and shmooze with the powerful Assembly leader. The demonstrators wanted Heastie to hear their demands for campaign finance reforms and other progressive legislation they say have gone unfulfilled by the now Democrat-led state legislature.
“We’re here to call out the toxic big money,” said Chris Tallent, who was on hand with Clean Up Carl, a giant “superhero for democracy” balloon overlooking the crowd. “We think instead of listening to big donors, he should be listening to everyday New Yorkers.”
“Heastie seems like kind of an old-time pol,” said Diane Englander from a group called Indivisible We Stand Upper West Side. Like other demonstrators, Englander called attention to what she complained was the passage of a weak pied-a-terre tax in the recently passed state budget, and a lack of support for small-donor matching funds.
“He doesn’t seem to want change that would affect his chances of remaining in office,” she said. “So this is part and parcel of that.”
The protesters argue the they’ve been let down by Assembly Democrats who had found it safe to support progressive causes when there was a Republican-dominated Senate.
“But now that the Senate is solidly in Democratic hands and has real progressive energy, the Assembly is waffling,” said Claire Ullman, a Rise and Resist spokeswoman. “This protest was the kickoff of a campaign to hold the Assembly to higher standards.”
Outside Terroir, a demonstrator asked Heastie why he was “putting big money before people.”
“I don’t agree with your assertion that I’m putting big money before people,” he replied.
Then asked why he didn’t get the Assembly to pass campaign finance reform, Heastie answered: “I agreed to the same budget as the governor and the state Senate.” Before the demonstrator could follow up, the Speaker was escorted inside to his fundraiser.
A spokeswoman for Hastie did not respond to a request for comment.
ACTION ON HARRISON
The civil liberties group Rise and Resist livened up a quiet Harrison Street last night, protesting a $25K a head fundraiser (they said – I did not check) for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at Terroir. Jane Freeman and A. tipped me off, and while I missed the action, photographer Sue Brisk, who is documenting the Trump resistance movement, was willing to share her shots. Heastie’s fundraiser will benefit the “Speaker Heastie PAC,” according to the group.
BY ZACK FINK | NEW YORK CITY
“Get big money out of politics!”
Demonstrators lined the street outside the fundraiser in Tribeca. Advocates are frustrated that speaker Heastie supported a version of campaign finance reform in the state budget that farms out the details to a new commission.
That commission, which has yet to be formed, will submit binding recommendations in December.
Critics say that doesn’t go far enough, and they want publicly funded campaigns immediately.
“We need a donor match, $1 to $6 we need to Lee track of campaign contributions so we can see where we are getting our money from if we are running for office, so we can actually have a fighting chance,” said Jawanza Williams of Vocal New York.
But the demonstrators were met with a counter protest in favor of Heastie. Supporters say Heastie and Assembly Democrats have been true progressive leaders in Albany.
“He is doing more for progressive values than most of us could have dreamed of fighting for progressive values on the street. We are not going to let him be crippled and hamstrung because they didn’t get as much as they wanted when they wanted it,” said Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network.
Heastie arrived shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday night. He seemed unfazed by all the yelling and screaming.
“People can have their opinions on what they want to say. There is a commission that is coming up that is going to look at campaign finance, so I think people should reserve judgment on what they say and feel,” Heastie said.
Two Assembly Democrats, David Buchwald and Robert Carrol are circulating a letter in the Assembly asking their fellow members to come back into session after the campaign finance commission comes out with its report in December. We asked Heastie what he thought of that letter.
“I think it’s premature. Members can write letters expressing their ideas, but let’s see what the commission comes back with,” Heastie said.
The Assembly and senate are both on break now. And don’t return to Albany until April 29th. We are expected to hear more about who is on the campaign finance commission and how it will work over the next few weeks.