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2014-01-02

Public Advocate Letitia James: Time to Tackle "Gilded Age of Inequality" in New York City

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Letitia James was sworn in on Wednesday as New York City’s new public advocate, the position previously occupied by new mayor Bill de Blasio. James is the first African-American woman to be elected to citywide office in New York. In her speech, she condemned "a gilded age of inequality" that grew under de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. An 11-year-old homeless girl named Dasani Coates, who was recently profiled in The New York Times, held the Bible during James’ swearing in.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Letitia James was also sworn in on Wednesday as the city’s new public advocate, the position previously occupied by Bill de Blasio. She’s the first African-American woman to be elected to citywide office in New York. In her speech, she condemned the city’s widening inequality.

PUBLIC ADVOCATE LETITIA JAMES: The wave of progressive victories our city has recently enjoyed, thanks to the City Council, was in some ways inevitable. The fabric of our city, of our nation, is made strong by the untold sacrifices of so many who are left defenseless, unrepresented, unspoken for. But at some point in history, the tide must turn. The policies that make them voiceless must give way to a government that works for them, that speaks for them, that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.

To live up to that challenge and to be morally centered in our decisions is the task before those of us who think of ourselves as the progressive wing of our city. Even as the tide turns towards progress, we do not have the luxury to rest. You see, the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots undermines our city and tears at the fabric of our democracy.

We live in a gilded age of inequality, where decrepit homeless shelters and housing developments stand in the neglected shadow of gleaming, multi-million-dollar condos; where long-term residents are being priced out of their own neighborhoods by rising rents and stagnant incomes; where stop-and-frisk abuses and warrantless surveillance have been touted as success stories, as if crime can only be reduced by infringing on the civil liberties of people of color.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. An 11-year-old homeless girl named Dasani Coates, who was recently profiled in The New York Times, held the Bible during James’s swearing in.

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