By Stephen Stirling
One by one, Queens residents filed up to a panel of a half dozen Flushing delegates to the Democratic National Convention Monday evening and gave different versions of the same message: Fix our country.
The conveyer belt of concern was part of a listening session City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and the team of delegates held ahead of the convention, which opens in Denver Monday.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has asked that delegates from communities across the country hold similar sessions as a means of developing the national party platform from the ground up.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said state Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing). “We have a chance to bring our local concerns to a national level.”
Liu said Flushing is in a unique position because the community is sending six delegates to Denver Monday — Liu; Young; state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone); District Leaders Martha Flores-Vasquez and James Wu; and Korean American Community Empowerment Council President John Park — comprising one of the largest community delegations in the state.
In the Democratic Party, delegates are a group of 4,047 elected or appointed officials in each state that vote to officially appoint the presidential nominee and form the platform of the party.
Many of the concerns expressed by the more than a dozen Democrats who spoke at the session, held at the Free Synogogue of Flushing, mirrored those of Democrats across the country: Rebuilding the economy, providing better health care and bringing an end to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
The session also had a distinctly city flavor, however.
Parents lamented the state of the city public school system, transit workers called for a larger federal investment in the city's mass transit system and residents complained that the cost of living was spiraling out of control while new homes being built in Queens were unaffordable to most.
“There are all these developments that are going up all over the place, but not everyone is being welcomed into them,” said Monique Minus, a Flushing resident. “They call an apartment for someone that earns $60,000 affordable housing, but minimum wage doesn't give you $60,000 in a year.”
Liu promised to make community voices heard and expressed his confidence in Obama to lead the country if elected in November.
“The senator has turned the political world upside-down. He has confounded expectations every step of the way,” Liu said. “All of us are going to be working here to make sure our voice is heard and heard loudly.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.