Amid a pending Democratic presidential debate expected to take place in New York on Sept. 4th, many elected Queens officials flexed their political weight to get CNN to have it in the outer borough and make sure that the moderators are as diverse as the Big Apple and the rest of the country.
The Sept. 4th debate initially was to focus on climate change and with that in mind Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the Environmental Chair, reached out to the cable news network to have the forum hosted in Queens or Brooklyn, the two most populous boroughs that were also the most impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“Hurricane Sandy’s wrath cost us 43 lives and $19 billion,” said Constantinides. “While Manhattan’s iconic skyline may define New York City, these two boroughs account for about two-thirds of the city’s population. Here reside the families who are the economic backbone of our city.”
With the support of several council members, state senators, assembly members and a congresswoman representing the two outer boroughs, Constantinides requested on Aug. 8th that topics such as toxic air, rising sea levels, heatwaves and other extreme weather were at the forefront.
To the ire of many environmentalists, the Democratic National Convention committee voted 17 to eight against an exclusive climate change debate.
“This is the existential crisis of our generation, which will negatively impact our economy, infrastructure, agriculture, the housing market and national security,” said the environmental chair. “America deserves a robust discussion on how the women and men vying to challenge the climate-denier-in-chief will address this threat. My hope is CNN will ask those substantive questions.”
This came on the heels of presidential candidate Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, the most climate change-oriented contender, dropping out of the race because of low polling numbers and the news breaking around the world that a possible man-made fire has set the Amazon rainforest ablaze.
“While the #AmazonFire burns our hope for the future, the @DNC voted against a #climatedebate,” tweeted Sunrise NYC, a climate change group. “We’re disappointed but we’re not backing down till we get a #GreenNewDeal.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), one of the supporters in Constantinides’ attempt to bring the Democratic debate to Queens, was alarmed by the news of the destruction of the Amazon, but also wants to ensure there is diversity amongst the moderators.
“The Amazon is known as Earth’s lungs and the raging wildfires there have been devastating,” said Meng. “We cannot afford to lose this critical oxygen resource for our entire planet. This is a travesty of epic proportions, not just for the millions of Indigenous people and species that live in the Amazon, but for the future of all humanity. I vehemently urge President Trump to address this global emergency at the G-7 Summit.”
The G-7 Summit is scheduled for Aug. 24 to Aug. 26 in France.
Meng is the chairwoman of ASPIRE PAC, a political action committee that supports federal candidates and candidates with large Asian American and Pacific Islander constituents.
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing populations in our country and the DNC has rightly recognized this fact by increasing the number of AAPIs in senior-level positions and expanding AAPI outreach efforts,” said Meng. “It is now time for the DNC to take their commitment even further by ensuring that Asian Americans are represented among moderators on the debate stage.”
AAPI constituents make up five percent of 11 million potential voters in the electorate across the country, and this population has continued to increase its participation in elections, according to Meng.
Currently, there are three people of AAPI descent running for president.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who are of Indian, Samoan and Taiwanese descent, respectively.
“We are excited about the diversity in the field,” said Meng. “Every candidate running for president would be a better president than Donald Trump, and will fight to expand access to health care and strengthen our economy for all communities, particularity communities of color.”
Meng would like a moderator of AAPI background to bring to the forefront issues from that community regarding immigration, education, housing, health care and business.
“AAPI voters will play a critical role in the 2020 elections and are poised to be the difference makers in key battleground states,” said Meng. “The debate stage must also reflect the diverse population of our country and that includes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”