“At a minimum, what these numbers are saying is that despite some good effort to reduce the number of people who have marijuana charges coming through the criminal justice system . . . we still have a bit of a way to go.”

-Tina Luongo, who runs Legal Aid’s criminal practice.
Number of Marijuana Busts is Lower, But Still High
Daily News “Legal Aid lawyers handled 5,934 pot cases involving misdemeanor charges and violations from Jan. 1 to Aug. 11, down only slightly from the 6,180 recorded during the corresponding span last year, according to records kept by the organization. In July — the month with the highest number of Legal Aid-handled marijuana cases — lawyers dealt with 867 pot busts. February saw the fewest, with 644.” Our take: This goes to one of the interesting undercurrents of the campaign: whether the mayor’s criminal-justice reform efforts have been sufficient to satisfy primary voters, and whether feelings about it are strong enough to get people to pull the lever for any Democrat versus just staying home.
As Democratic Debate Nears, a Look at the Top 10 Moments in Debate History
Gotham Gazette “Debates for citywide races in New York — for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate — have played no small part in helping New Yorkers decide which candidates best represent their interests. Ahead of the 2017 debates, which begin Wednesday with the first Democratic mayoral primary debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Council Member Sal Albanese, Gotham Gazette presents 10 great moments from New York City debates of the last few decades.” Our take: Debates are often notable for what doesn’t happen – i.e., a challenger landing enough punches to make the media treat the race as real. That will be the test for Sal Albanese on Wednesday.
A Close-Up Look at Ruben Diaz, Sr.
City & State “Depending on whom you speak to, Díaz is an unrepentant homophobe, a benevolent man of God who lives by a strict dogmatic code, a narcissistic headache for the New York Democratic establishment or a deeply popular local politician who delivers some of the best constituent services in the borough. Or, perhaps, all of the above.” Our take: Diaz’s personal charisma and political record are important parts of the story of the district 18 race. But just as important is whether one of the younger candidates in the race (Michael Beltzer, Amanda Farias or Elvin Garcia) can overcome the Rev’s name recognition and win a contest of ideas versus familiarity.
Some NYC Religious Communities Still Support Trump
WNYC “Members of New York City’s Evangelical and Hasidic communities turned out to vote for Donald Trump for president, and they continue to support him, despite his tepid and mixed responses to white supremacists who rally in his name. One member of Trump’s evangelical advisory council, Brooklyn pastor A.R. Bernard, became the first member of that panel to resign on Saturday. ‘It became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration,’ Bernard wrote in a statement.” Our take: There’s a chicken-vs-egg quality to stories about religion and politics. Do some religious people support (or oppose!) Trump because they are religious, or does an underlying personal conservatism drive both their faith and their feelings about the prez?
Spending Swells on Mayor’s Aides
New York Post At least three of the special assistants who were on the public payroll during fiscal 2017 have since left to work on de Blasio’s November re-election bid. A former city official said bestowing the title of ‘special assistant’ on his underlings gives de Blasio increased flexibility to shower them with the public’s hard-earned cash. When you want to give someone a big raise, it’s easier if you say they’re doing a different job,’ the source said. Our take: The money is beside the point. The spending reflects de Blasio’s managerial style, which is to centralize control of policy and operations in City Hall, and delegate far less than Mayor Bloomberg did to the agencies. The bigger question is whether that has been effective or not.