Almost 50 days.
That’s how long one constituent says she’s been waiting on answers from her state senator.
On Tuesday, February 27, Bay Ridge resident and co-founder of grassroots politico group Fight Back Bay Ridge (FBBR) Mallory McMahon said she phoned State Senator Marty Golden’s Brooklyn office to ask about a flyer being circulated by the Alliance for Quality (AQE), which FBBR was helping distribute, blasting the longtime pol for “blocking funding” owed to New York City public schools as a result of the 12-year-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) settlement.
The flyer, which urged constituents to call Golden and “demand that he prioritize our children’s education,” prompted McMahon to do just that, she said. She was promptly referred to the pol’s Albany office, at which point, McMahon told this paper, a “friendly” staffer pretended not to know about the flyers.
“It became pretty apparent that he did,” she said, “or at the very least he was Googling around while we were talking.”
The staffer, she said, then pointed her to Golden’s tweets from the day before.
“Delivering for Education is Delivering Opportunities,” the pol, who has represented the 22nd senate district since 2003, tweeted. “Never underestimate a desperate person. You never know how far they will go to get what they want. There are those who are completely misrepresenting my record on delivering for our children.”
“When I was first elected to the Senate my first priority was to create seating in our schools because our students were learning not in classrooms but in trailers parked in playgrounds,” his tweets read on. “During that same period, inflation only grew by 40 percent. By investing in our schools, all boats will rise with the tide. For example, since 2011, I have delivered $4,607,000 in aid dedicated to public and non-public schools in our local communities.”
McMahon said that when she asked if those tweets were considered an official statement, the staffer said yes but couldn’t provide specifics on the CFE funding. McMahon was promised a call-back.
Two days later and still no call, McMahon said she picked up the phone again, at which point she said she reached an intern and was, again, promised a call-back that didn’t happen.
To no avail, McMahon said she kept calling. On Friday, March 2, McMahon said, she got a hold of another staffer of Golden’s who’d claimed this wasn’t his area of expertise but helped as best he could.
“He was actually very nice,” she told this paper. “He gave me some information that I’d already had access to – but he didn’t know that – and told me that Golden has always fought for school funding in other areas than this specific lawsuit. I said, ‘Great, but I’m really just asking about this specific lawsuit.’”
Again, McMahon said she was promised a call-back.
“I said, ‘This is the third time I’ve been promised a call-back. Can you ask Marty himself to call me back?’” The staffer, McMahon went on, making no guarantees, said he’d ask and referred McMahon to Golden’s scheduler, Meg Brown.
“I thought, ‘This is great,’” McMahon recalled, “because at this point I was starting to feel ignored.”
She contacted Brown immediately, requesting a meeting for herself, her friend, Courtney Scott, and a local high schooler also interested in the CFE funding.
“I received an answer on March 9 telling me he was very busy with budget negotiations but that she would schedule a meeting with me for the week of April 9,” McMahon said. “I would’ve loved to meet with him before budget negotiations but I was willing to take anything. I wasn’t going to let go of my opportunity.”
With three busy schedules on the line – four including the senator’s – McMahon felt it best to nail down a tentative date (Scott, a mother of two kids — one of whom is currently enrolled in a public school in Golden’s district, would have to arrange for childcare and the student, McMahon said, would have to work around her classes). “Meg said she couldn’t nail down a date this far in advance but scheduled us tentatively for the 11th or 13th at 1 p.m.,” McMahon said.
And so, the trio held the two dates until, on April 2, the first of the two was canned, McMahon said. The same thing happened to the second date on April 11, she went on.
“I received an email, which read in its entirety, ‘Friday isn’t working either. I will be in touch to explore some other dates.’”
At this point, McMahon said, she replied asking for some suggestions, but was told that Golden would be in Albany all week and that the remainder of his days would be “jammed” in the district. Brown, McMahon stressed, apologized for the inconvenience, but still wasn’t rescheduling.
“If he’s in the district, it’s a 30-minute meeting. I don’t understand why he can’t make time for this,” McMahon, a college professor, told this paper. “You come in earlier. You work a little later one day. I do that all the time when my students want to meet with me. We’re not asking him for a seven-course dinner.”
McMahon said she replied once more, reminding Brown of the trio’s tough schedules, and saying that the three were starting to feel like they were “getting the runaround.”
“If he’s in the district, what is his priority?” she asked this paper.
Brown’s response, McMahon said, was that she could not promise a meeting by the end of the month and that Golden was busy “meeting with many constituents and local organizations.”
“I am a constituent,” she said. “I grew up in Bay Ridge. Marty Golden was my councilman before he was my senator. The only thing I can read into this is, ‘Well, he’s not meeting with you.’”
“I’m not out here to be a thorn in Marty Golden’s side,” Scott said, “but it feels just a little absurd at this point that it would take two months to get to the point where you can schedule a 30-minute meeting with your elected representative, and have it fall through for no other reason than that he’s meeting with constituents…which we are.”
The two have continued to follow up but, as of Tuesday, April 17, said McMahon, neither she nor Scott had heard back from Brown or anyone else in Golden’s district or legislative offices. The most recent response, she said, was a forward to McMahon of an email Golden sent to someone else that “answers [her] questions,” (though she never provided Brown with specifics Qs — just that she wanted to discuss the suit) a response she’s taking as a red flag that she may never meet with the senator.
“No one is pretending that this isn’t a nuanced, complicated issue which is part of the reason we want to meet with him in person in the first place,” McMahon contended, stressing that, while Scott has received a “vague,” “somewhat inaccurate” response to the question from Golden himself via email, this is something that would pan out better in person. “This is a detailed question. There are figures. There are charts. We want to talk about this issue intelligently. If we have to wait a month and a half for a response, those conversations can’t happen.”
“The idea of trying to play that out over several months when I can just go in and meet in person with him for 30 minutes is a clumsy way of moving forward,” Scott said. “I understand politicians are busy but others have made time to meet with me so I’m not sure why [Golden] is in a different category.”
“I don’t understand why it’s more in their interest to spend so much time dodging us than to schedule a 30-minute meeting,” McMahon went on, stressing also that, in the 15 or so years since she’s been contacting Golden’s office, she’s “never gotten a satisfactory response.”
“They have me in their system. They’re probably saying, ‘Why would we give this woman who’s been a thorn in his side any time with the senator,’” she said. “But that’s your job. I’m a constituent. You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t even have to like me, but you do have to make the time for me and you certainly don’t have the right to give me the runaround.”
“We care about education and about educational inequity,” McMahon concluded, admittedly doubtful that she will ever get her sit-down with the senator. “We want him to prove us wrong. We want him to look at us and say, ‘This is what I’ve done.’ For all we know, Marty has done right for the district. I’m only looking at the numbers in front of me, and I want schools to get their fair share. Maybe we’ll end up agreeing on something.”
At the end of the day, McMahon said, “I’ve got better things to do than call his office once a day,” adding that, “this wouldn’t even be an issue if someone on his staff could’ve properly answered my question.”
“I’m just not buying what they’re selling,” added Scott.
The CFE lawsuit alleged that the state was failing to provide New York City public school students with “a sound basic education” guaranteed in the state Constitution. In 2006, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled that this was the case, but payment of $1.9 billion in foundation aid, including $40 million to local District 20 schools, has been languishing.
Golden’s office declined to comment on any of McMahon and Scott’s claims.