Ydanis Rodriguez
Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez

The most contested primary race in New York City this year is in the 15th Congressional district in the Bronx, where 12 people are vying for the Democratic nomination to replace the retiring Rep. José Serrano. If submitted, City Limits will publish one op-ed supporting each candidate.

Americans everywhere are struggling to make ends meet, especially with the high unemployment rate we have seen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All the while the one-percent continues to grow wealthier every year. 

Because of the Trump administration, we have seen the protections once put in place to help Americans being gutted. We have seen massive cuts to food stamps and other provisions that help working class Americans survive. Without these programs, millions are destined to remain impoverished and without the opportunity to move up the socio-economic ladder. While cities and states, like New York, have attempted to make up for the lack of progress in Washington, there is still work to be done.

For decades, the 15th Congressional District has been the poorest district in America, with a median income of just over $28,000 and a quarter million of the population living in poverty. When it comes to education, 64.7 percent of residents have a high school education level, and only 13.7 percent of residents are college graduates. 

That’s why we need someone in Congress who is going to take on these issues head on and fight for Bronxites. There is no one better to take on that challenge than Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been a fighter for his communities for his entire life.

Ydanis knows the immigrant experience. He came here from the Dominican Republic and became a green card holder before becoming a citizen. As an activist for years, he brought that mindset to the City Council and he will bring it to the halls of Congress.

We need bold and ambitious plans to eradicate poverty in our country and in the 15th Congressional District. Ydanis has a plan to do so by 2030 that ensures all Americans have access to affordable healthcare, quality education, and good paying union jobs.

Reforming our healthcare system under the Obama administration was a huge step forward in providing affordable health care. But too many are still struggling to find options that fit their budget. That’s why Ydanis will fight to deliver universal healthcare so that no one has to worry about going bankrupt because they got sick. He will work to increase mental health funding and remove the stigma that so many face as a barrier to treatment.

As a former educator himself, Ydanis understands the needs of students and will fight to bring more funding back to the district to revitalize our schools and help send more students to college. Using the community schools model, he will ensure that schools are not just a place to learn, but a centralized part of their upbringing. He will fight to secure student loan forgiveness so that college graduates who are struggling to pay their massive student loans will no longer have to worry. And he will help form public and private partnerships like he did in his council district that helped bring greater STEM education to the area 

By continuing with those partnerships he will work to bring employers here to the Bronx and ensure that they hire local residents, providing them with good wages and benefits. He’ll fight for a Green New Deal that will not only improve sustainability, but create billions of dollars in new infrastructure and jobs for all of our communities. And Ydanis will protect union workers from the anti-labor movement that threatens to remove crucial protections for workers.

These plans are ambitious, and will no doubt be difficult, but they are so important to our communities. We need fighters in Congress who understand our struggles, shine light on them, and fix them. That’s why it’s so important to make our voices heard on June 23rd and send a fighter, and an immigrant to Congress by voting for Ydanis Rodriguez.

Jose Reyes is a community organizer