Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Blog

Yalla Vote New YorkToday’s New York City elections are getting a lot of national press. But while the major media outlets remain focused on the Mayoral primary, which is important, to be sure, we at AAI are watching another race. Today could see the election of the first Arab American member of the New York City Council —and some significant changes in New York city policies.

Born in Kuwait, Zead Ramadan came to the US at age five. He’s the owner of X Café in Washington Heights, but most community members know him because of his extensive record of public service. Ramadan serves on Community Board 12 and the board of directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and the West Harlem Development Corporation and is vice co-chair of the Washington Heights and Inwood Chamber of Commerce. He’s founding chair of both the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.

Ramadan’s been working hard these past weeks to get out the vote in City Council District 7, making sure that New Yorkers in his district have a chance to learn more about him and about his stance on some critical issues that have been facing New York’s minority communities — like the NYPD surveillance program and stop-and-frisk policy. He’s against both — and he’s not the only one.

Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, currently leading the race, has made no qualms about his opposition to the stop-and-frisk program, backed by current Mayor Bloomberg. Critics claim the policy unfairly targets ethnic and racial minorities, and the courts have backed them up. While de Blasio didn’t go as far as his opponent, Jon Liu, in criticizing the NYPD’s surveillance program, he did voice support for the new Inspector General. In a radio interview last week, de Blasio recommended “a full review of all surveillance efforts,” and said that the Inspector General “will be crucial to make sure that no surveillance is undertaken in the future unless it is based on specific leads and constitutional standards.”

For Arab Americans in New York, today could be the day our community gets long-overdue representation on the City Council. And for all New Yorkers, it could be the day that the city’s leadership finally learns how its citizens feel about having their civil liberties suspended or denied. Today is the day that New Yorkers voice their feelings with their vote. And AAI will be listening.

If you’re not sure where to vote today, click here.  And for additional information on the elections and candidates, please visit the New York Board of Elections website.