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The New Roosevelt Initiative Interns started the day off with a running start as we got a taste of the underpinnings of NYC government—past and present.

New Roosevelt Interns with Councilman Dan Garodnick

Today’s meeting with New York City Councilman Daniel Garodnick set the stage for a tour of City Hall. Garodnick’s effort to reform Albany is democracy in action because part of this endeavor is to provide necessary reforms to help NYC residents. The recent coup in Albany represents how a lawmaker’s primary purpose can be undermined by selfish pursuits such as power and greed. Garodnick’s efforts to help Manhattanites keep their place of residence in parts of the city they have occupied for years is a step in the right direction and a “nod” to the fact that policy makers still believe that responding to the needs of their constituency is one of their main priorities.

The tour of City Hall was interesting but was a bit like sitting through my 8th grade history class. The history lessons came flooding back as the tour guide recounted historical events such as the Dutch’s occupation of America and then the British takeover. However, the tour did have its high points. What really caught my attention was that the statue of George Washington (right inside the front doors) was created with contributions from public school students. 3,000 pennies were raised centuries ago, and today students are still involved in government action; students around the nation raised monies for relief efforts such as Hurricane Katrina. It was interesting to find out that even centuries ago, students believed that they could make a difference.

Lovis with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

As we did more exploring, the topic of the Bull Pin and Mayor Bloomberg’s policy on open communication arose. The fact that his general office is an open space with transparent doors does not necessarily mean that there are no barriers to communication between the public and NYC government. The premise seems a bit presumptuous because NYC government has definitely not always been the beacon of transparency and openness.

The highlight of the day was to see how all of the history that we learned seemed to come together at the end of the tour, as we walked out to see a rally on the steps of City Hall. I wasn’t sure if they had timed the tour for greater effect because the rally for responsible banking, with Speaker Quinn and other NYC officials provided the perfect ending as we were able to truly see democracy in action.

—Lovis Nelson-Williams

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