5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: Aug. 7, 2020

It’s Friday, CivMixers. Whoot, Whoot!!! I hope you all had a lovely week.

After we got out of the effects of Iasais, it was actually very nice, weather-wise, though, of course, many people are still without power and cleaning up from the impact of the storm.

Enjoy it while we can, folks. Because 2020, which is intent on being a year like no other, is set to be a record-breaker in named storms.

According to NOAA, never before have 25 storms of this significance been forecasted for hurricane season – but this year, they are expecting 19 to 25 storms to hit, with up to 11 of those likely to advance to hurricane status and three to six expected to be Category 3 or higher.

This year is the year that just keeps giving – from Australian wildfires to COVID to flying snakes to record-breaking numbers of storms.

Ima lay down, wake me in 2021…OK?

Onto our 5 Things to take us into the weekend.

1) Down in D.C., talks remain stalled when it comes to a deal on a new coronavirus aid bill. According to a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ latest proposal was quickly rejected by both the Senate Republicans and Trump administration representatives.

Pelosi said yesterday’s negotiations, which included acting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Democrats offered to take their proposal down by a trillion dollars (yes, trillion, with a “t”) if the Republicans came up with a trillion on their end, meeting in the middle at a bill that totals $2 trillion in relief.

But this, according to Pelosi, was a non-starter.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was also a part of the negotiations, characterized today’s latest unsuccessful attempt as not only unfruitful but downright disappointing. Schumer said he’s hopeful that after taking time to think about the “cut a trillion add a trillion” proposal that the Republicans will see the benefit of this compromise.

Mnuchin, meanwhile, says he’s close to recommending that President Donald Trump simply bypass the Democrats altogether and take matters into his own hands through executive action.

Even before entering into negotiations, Meadows and Mnuchin told reporters that an aid bill with the price tag of $2 trillion was not going to happen. On the other hand, Pelosi and Schumer have repeatedly claimed that Republicans do not understand the scope of the problem. Pelosi has implied that the inability to grasp the enormity of the issue actually rests with Trump.

Schumer accused the Republicans of wanting to put a band-aid on the problem for now so they can go home for recess and, in his words, “leave America bleeding.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thus far is delaying the August recess, though senators are free to leave D.C. as long as they can return within 24 hours to vote on any deal that might be reached.

McConnell says he could support a bill that continues the enhanced federal pandemic unemployment compensation at its current rate of $600 a week – if Trump gets behind it, too. The White House has been firmly against continuing that rate of pay, however, saying it’s too generous and a disincentive for people getting back to work.

The Federal Reserve, however, maintains there’s no evidence to back up that point of view.

The negotiations have been dragging on for weeks, and the $600 FPUC ran out as of last week. Now, the multitudes of Americans unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic are subsisting only on their state’s unemployment benefit – often not enough to keep them above the poverty line.

No matter the side of the aisle, as the weeks drag on with no solution, it is becoming clear that few in D.C. understand what it is like to try and subsist on low weekly unemployment benefits in a country that is expected to hit 300,000 deaths from a virus that many feel was and continues to be mishandled by federal officials.

Hopefully, they will put their differences aside and do right by the people they represent…soon.

2) As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to narrow down his list of potential running mates, he remains committed to his pledge to pick a woman. Several women of color are on his shortlist, and this has led to a lot of criticism among his critics.

That criticism rose to a whole new level when the Mayor of Luray, Virginia, Barry Presgraves, posted on his Facebook page that Biden had made his pick for VP – Aunt Jemima.

The backlash was quick and vocal, with advocates rightly deeming the post both racist and sexist. Local town council members called on the mayor to apologize at the least, and some called for him to resign.

The post was removed almost as quickly as it appeared, but Presgraves doubled down, saying that not only won’t be resign, but this is all an overreaction that he finds quite amusing.

This comes in the wake of the announcement by Quaker Oats that, given the current national debate over social and racial justice, it would be retiring Aunt Jemima from its brand.

Councilman Joey Sours is one of those calling for Presgraves to apologize, though he said he has never previously seen anything like this from the mayor and encouraged the community to not jump to conclusions.

Leah Pence, another Council member, took a harder stance, calling for the mayor to resign. Councilman Jerry Schiro says the whole matter in on the agenda for the body’s upcoming Aug. 10 meeting. According to Sours, the Council can not remove the mayor from his office, nor will they issue a recall election as it would occur when Presgraves is going to be leaving the office without seeking re-election.

Presgraves has served as Luray’s mayor for the past decade.

3) Gov. Andrew Cuomo today gave schools across New York the official go-ahead to reopen for in-person learning this fall. Cuomo said that since the Covid-19 infection numbers are continuing to go down within the state, we may be in a better position than any other state to take this approach.

Of course, this debate is far from over. Unions and parents are resistant to the idea of children returning to school. Cuomo acknowledged that concern, but said that right now, science and numbers back up the decision for schools to be able to re-open as long as they have a health and safety plan to keep kids, teachers and other staff safe.

New York City is home to the nation’s largest public school system, and many people there are genuinely unprepared to enter back into in-person learning. The de Blasio administration did provide the governor’s office with its required re-opening proposal, sending their 32-page plan to the state Health for approval. The governor was not entirely complimentary about the plan, and the teachers unions are making noises about suing.

With this decree from the governor today, all eyes turn towards the unions and advocates for both students and teachers to see how the rest of this will unfold.

4) Just after 2 p.m. yesterday, the Albany Police Department was called to the Extended Stay America on Washington Avenue where a victim reported that he had been approached by a man who had brandished a gun and then took his car

Today, the police confirmed that hours later, they found the car and that Matthew St. Laurent, 24, of Troy, was arrested. He had a .380 caliber handgun on him when he was apprehended.

Laurent was charged with criminal possession of the stolen property, criminal possession of a weapon, and robbery.

5) Starting Monday at 9:30 a.m., there will be a food distribution event held at Hudson Valley Community College located on Vandenburgh Avenue in Troy. This is known as a drive-thru pantry and is open to the public. There is no advanced registration needed.

The food will be provided by the Regional Food Bank and packed by their volunteers. This is an event hosted by the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in partnership with the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. This year alone, the two organizations have served almost 40,000 people and given out approximately 429 tons of food.

Please do not arrive before 9:30 AM and use the South Drive entrance.

Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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