The woman behind a policy change that allows people in New York City to commit crimes such as public urination and drinking in public without being arrested is a Hillary Clinton supporter who has appeared with her at official campaign events.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito served as author and lead cheerleader for legislation that eases enforcement of so-called "quality-of-life offenses." The policy change was officially implemented this week.
Mark-Viverito announced her endorsement of Clinton in September and stated her hope that she could play an "important role" to help her campaign reach Latinos in 2016. Mark-Viverito, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, published her endorsement in Spanish.
Just last week, Mark-Viverito was invited to deliver a speech at Clinton’s rally at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center.
— Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW (@Local338) March 2, 2016
Mark-Viverito came on stage at the end of the rally and "Mrs. Clinton grabbed Ms. Mark-Viverito close," according to an account by the New York Times. Here’s video of the embrace captured by a local reporter:
— Jaime Zea (@jaimezea) March 2, 2016
Mark-Viverito expressed hopes to the New York Daily News this week that a Clinton victory in 2016 could lead to a job for her in the White House.
Though Mark-Viverito was successful in her effort to change the NYPD’s policy towards what she deems "minor crimes," her critics say this will prove to be "a mistake" for the city that has come a long way from the days when subway cars were covered in graffiti.
Matthew Hennessey, an editor of New York’s City Journal, wrote recently that the smell of urine in the city will "linger in the minds of those who remember a time when New York was a city in decline."
"The smell of urine is the olfactory equivalent of the sight of litter in the street, graffiti on the subway, or a building with broken windows," wrote Hennessy. "All send the same message: No one cares about public spaces in this city, so do as you please."
Viverito didn’t grow up in New York City, but fellow Democrat Scott Stringer did, and he says it is knowing what New York used to be that makes him against the change.
"Having grown up in this city in the 70s and 80s, I am not in favor of people urinating in the street, jumping turnstiles, or creating dangerous situations by being drunk," said the city comptroller.
Clinton is yet to directly address the city’s new policy and did not return a request for comment for this story.
Though the new policy has many critics, it is far from the most controversial issue surrounding Mark-Viverito, who has been criticized in the past by New York politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The most stinging critiques came in 2014 after she refused to stand up during the pledge of allegiance at a September 11 memorial service at the World Trade Center. A fellow Democrat in New York said that Mark-Viverito "doesn’t care about America" and that she is a "communist from Puerto Rico."
After Mark-Viverito attempted to excuse herself for the incident, another fellow Democrat said that Mark-Viverito told her that it was a symbolic "protest" of the United States due to the fact that Puerto Rico hasn’t been granted independence.
She continues to fight for the release from prison of Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is believed to have been behind a 1975 bombing in New York City that killed four. Rivera was offered a presidential pardon by President Bill Clinton, but turned it down because he refused to denounce terrorism.