June 9, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Calls for the Implementation of a Comprehensive Justice Agenda to Reform Policing and Reduce Inequality in America

TOP Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor...

Governor Cuomo: "When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it's very true. But in this moment of change, let's make it real change and let's get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America, well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same."

 

Cuomo: "Why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? 'Great America, they lock up more people than anyone else.' Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality. If a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn't have education, if a person doesn't have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can't do it piecemeal. Either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda."

 

Cuomo: "On the immediate issue of policing, this is my opinion to the local elected officials and the police departments that are grappling with it: don't dismiss this as an issue of the moment... This has been brewing for decades and decades and decades. It's not just about Mr. Floyd's murder. That was the tipping point. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. That is when it exploded, but don't say this is when it started. It started with Rodney King. It started with the murder of Martin Luther King. This has been brewing for decades if not centuries in this nation."

WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for the implementation of a new, comprehensive Justice Agenda to reform policing, reduce inequality and reimagine the criminal justice system in America. 

 

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.  

  

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

       

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

 

Today is day 16 of the civil unrest after Mr. Floyd's murder, and our thoughts and prayers are with him today. We're dealing with two separate situations, the COVID virus and the civil unrest, after Mr. Floyd's murder. They are separate, they have to be dealt with separately, there's obviously also an intersection between the two, the protests also cause a complication on dealing with the COVID virus so, it's a complex situation but we're dealing with it. On the civic unrest, on Mr. Floyd's death, we go back to Representative John Lewis, who I had the pleasure of working with when I was in Washington, who is a legendary and historic civil rights leader, "talk is fine, discussion is fine but we must respond, we must act." And that's true, and that's what this moment is all about. It's time for New York to be the place that leads.

 

That's New York State at its best, that's New York State's legacy, right. This is the progressive capital of the nation. You look back in history, when there was a time of unrest, when there were issues, when there were problems, what government actually stepped up and acted and provided an example of action? That was New York State, time and time again. And New York State is going to do it in this situation.

 

We're going to pass the most aggressive reforms in the country, the transparency of disciplinary records, banning chokeholds, giving the attorney general authority as a special prosecutor, punishing false race-based 911 calls. These are issues that we have been talking about for a long time and the time has come for dramatic action, and we're taking it right now. I want to applaud the legislative leaders, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, right here from Westchester County, Speaker Carl Heastie, these are tough issues and we've been working through them in a cooperative and expeditious manner, and bills are being passed as we speak. As soon as the bills are passed, I will sign them into law, hopefully this week. So we're making progress, we're making progress quickly, and I want to thank them for the leadership, and all my colleagues in the legislature.

 

It is a great step forward because people see progress, people see action, and that's what they have come to expect from the State of New York, and that's what they get. Results, right. Government is not a passive occupation. Government is supposed to do things, it's supposed to make changes. Often government moves too slowly. But not in New York, and we're proud of that.

 

My opinion, not facts, separate facts from opinion, two different things. You can have your opinion, you can't have your own facts, as I have many cause to remind people lately. My opinion, what we should think about going forward, that this is not just a moment for political protest. It's not just a moment to express outrage. It's a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That's the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let's get it done here in the State of New York.

 

When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it's very true. But in this moment of change, let's make it real change and let's get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. "Opportunity for all." No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I'm saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can't and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.

 

How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can't blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can't justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, "for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans." 1949, it's 2020, what are we doing? There's no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.

 

And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? "Great America, they lock up more people than anyone else." Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn't have education, if a person doesn't have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can't do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, "Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you're running for Senate, or whatever you're running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda." That is my opinion.

 

On the immediate issue of policing, this is my opinion to the local elected officials and the police departments that are grappling with it, don't dismiss this as an issue of the moment. "Well, this is just about Mr. Floyd's murder." No, it's not. This has been brewing for decades and decades and decades. It's not just about Mr. Floyd's murder. That was the tipping point. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, That is when it exploded, but don't say this is when it started. It started with Rodney King. It started with the murder of Martin Luther King. This has been brewing for decades if not centuries in this nation. It is the anger and the repulsion at the systemic injustice and discrimination and racism that exists in this country. That is the truth, painful truth, but that is the truth.

 

Then we have to separate the political hype and partisan rhetoric from the truth and the facts. And this is a difficult time in this country, because all the rhetoric, all the hype is so extreme and so partisan and so reckless. That is why I have always said facts and opinion, facts and opinion. I can give you my opinion. It's different than the facts. What happens out there today is they put the two together. People create their own facts to advance their opinion. You want to advance your opinion, advance your opinion. Don't create facts and say to the American people these are facts to advance your opinion because then we can't even have an intelligent conversation and it starts at the highest levels.

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