Columbus Day may be behind us, but the controversy around the Italian explorer and the statues commemorating him continues. Is he a symbol of genocide and oppression, or of Italian-American contributions and heritage? Either way, we’ll be hearing about him for a far longer time than seems necessary. This week also saw a rowdy New York City mayoral debate, horrifying accusations of sexual assault by a famous Hollywood producer, and a controversial charter school shakeup. From “Wild Man Bo” to Harvey Weinstein, here’s this week’s most important headlines.
Accusations against Weinstein
The New York Times and The New Yorker published accusations from multiple women claiming that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed, abused and even assaulted them. The New Yorker article included information that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to charge Weinstein in 2015, contributing to the growing public outcry against Vance that has led to a challenger announcing a write-in campaign for the upcoming election. Several New York lawmakers quickly distanced themselves from Weinstein, who is a prominent Democratic donor, with U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand agreeing to donate thousands in campaign contributions to charities that support women. Gov. Andrew Cuomo took heat throughout the week for keeping a portion of the contributions his campaign received from Weinstein, although he caved and announced he would donate the funds on Thursday.
Mayoral candidates clash
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Republican mayoral nominee Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl participated in the first general election mayoral debate. The night was characterized more by zingers and rowdy outbursts from the audience than serious policy discussions. Dietl, who lived up to his “Wild Man Bo” reputation, had his microphone turned off more than once for speaking past his allotted time. Malliotakis tried to make the debate more of a one-on-one with de Blasio, and succeeded in outlining their differences. But after 90 minutes filled with shouting, verbal jabs and even a protester in the audience being escorted out, the only clear winner was moderator Errol Louis for staying relatively calm – and the losers were New Yorkers who care about having serious policy debates.
Charting their own course
The SUNY Charter Schools Committee voted to approvea controversial plan on Wednesday that would allow charter schools to certify their own teachers. The proposal, which would cut the number of hours required for training, has received stiff opposition from the state Department of Education, the state Board of Regents and teachers unions. While supporters say looser requirements will allow for a more diverse field of prospective teachers, opponents believe it lowers standards. As state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said at a City & State event in August, “I could go into a fast food restaurant and get more training than that.”
Columbus Day drama
Columbus Day was marked by controversy throughout the state. De Blasio was booed as he marched in the city’s annual Columbus Day Parade for establishing a commission to review monuments that are potential symbols of hate – including the explorer’s statue in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. It didn’t help that the commission’s first meeting on Tuesday was moved from City Hall to a private venue. Meanwhile, a Buffalo Common Council meeting on Tuesday became heated over an argument to remove a Columbus statue, and the Syracuse school board tabled a proposal on Wednesday to rename Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”