Letitia James: A Strong Voice during Tough Times

What next for Letitia James? Voters from all walks of life are asking that she run for the 10th  Congressional seat  when current Congressman Ed Towns eventually retires. And, why not?

Though she has served in a variety of positions in public life, many voters first became aware of Letitia James when she ran for the 35th Council District seat opened by the untimely death of Councilman James E. Davis. After a hard-fought challenge from Geoffrey Davis, the late Councilman’s brother, James emerged victorious. She served out Davis’ term, then successfully ran and won the seat in her own right. Most remarkable, James became the first city official to run on the Working Families Party line, and won.

James took exception to the Atlantic Yards project being taken out of the City Council’s land review process. Her vocal opposition to the displacement of her constituents via eminent domain was heard across the state. She remains firmly in support of the Unity Plan’s alternative principle that the community needs affordable housing more than it needs a sports arena.

Long before NYC Comptroller John Liu refused to sign off on any more contract extensions for CityTime, Letitia James sounded warnings. As Chair of the Contracts Committee, she held hearings that first discovered the fraud.

When Michael Bloomberg sought to defy the will of the people on term limits,  James stood in vocal opposition to the blatant power-grab. After a long, bitter fight that divided the city, Bloomberg ran and won a third term. In a blunt display of retribution, Council Speaker Christine Quinn removed James as Chair of Contracts and relegated her to the Sanitation Committee, presuming James would never be heard from again. But the Bloomberg Administration’s bungling of snow removal during the December 26-27, 2010 snowstorm made national news and gave James an opportunity to speak on national media of the plight of snow-bound ordinary New Yorkers unable to navigate streets.

Throughout her tenure in the City Council, James has stood for the city’s working class.

She has been a vocal advocate of equal pay legislation and a living wage for jobs created through projects that receive millions in tax breaks. James sponsored the Safe Housing Act, which addresses violations of the housing maintenance code and multiple dwellings. An advocate for the people, James consistently denounces Bloomberg budget proposals that would close fire-houses, lay off 6,000 employees and drastically reduce much-needed city services.

James continues to be a firm advocate for child care and child safety. When Bloomberg defied a federal court order to increase the pay scale of home day care workers, James stood with them. James participated in hearings on child safety and stood with advocates to promote public service announcements urging young mothers to carefully screen their children’s caregivers after more than 40 black and brown children were killed by  the mother’s significant other during a three-year period. She opposes the Bloomberg proposal to cut child care slots for working parents.

When a racially offensive billboard stating “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb” was erected in lower Manhattan, James was first to sound the alarm. She created an online petition denouncing the billboard which receives hundreds of signatures within a day. She reached out to Rev. Al Sharpton to call a press conference on the issue. Before the press conference could occur, that billboard was removed… within 48 hours.

Letitia James is an unwavering voice who speaks truth to power. When asked why she takes a firm stance on controversial city issues James said, “I thought it necessary to challenge the mayor whenever he is wrong or too Manhattan-centric.”

Originally published in Our Time Press, June 23, 2011