CNN will once again focus on the climate crisis with its next gathering of Democratic presidential hopefuls on Sept. 4, but instead of a debate, there will be a town hall where the winnowed down the list of candidates gets a chance to elaborate on their views and solutions on the topic.
This semi-reversal comes on the heels of backlash from environmental groups and a Category 4 hurricane expected to touch down in both Florida and Puerto Rico in the coming days.
Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also declared July 2019 to be the hottest month ever recorded as the Arctic shrank and polar ice melts.
Despite the news network’s change of heart on assembling 10 presidential candidates to focus discussions solely on climate change, there are still detractors of the forum.
“The best time for a #ClimateDebate was years ago,” tweeted state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), the deputy majority leader in the state Senate. It is “inexcusable to reject one now.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the City Council chairman of the Committee of Environmental Protection, was disappointed in the Democratic-forum taking place at the 30 Hudson Yards development, which is owned by Stephen Ross, a supporter of President Donald Trump who is a climate change denier.
He had reached out to the network with the support of over a dozen other lawmakers to bring the forum to Queens or Brooklyn, the two most populous boroughs that were hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“The candidates should see the communities already living with the effects of climate change on a daily basis, which there are plenty of in Queens and Brooklyn,” said Constantinides. “If the town hall is indeed at Hudson Yards, where a three-bedroom condo goes for $9.5 million, is a slap in the face to every Rockaway resident still waiting to get his or her home back nearly seven years after Sandy.”
Constantinides doesn’t believe a big real estate developer like Ross who fought tooth and nail to stop the passage of the Climate Mobilization Act in April should hold a climate crisis forum in his building.
“Elected officials from Queens and Brooklyn made a strong, clear case as to why either borough would be a better option than Manhattan,” said Constantinides. “We are home to nearly five million New Yorkers, many of whom grapple already with rising tides and rising rents. Queens is home to both airports, which could be underwater within a few decades unless we mobilize as a city, state, and nation against this crisis.”
The town hall, which features former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Vice President Joe Biden, former U. S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris, as well as businessman Andrew Yang, but will not have any moderators who are Asian American or of Pacific Island descent.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng has called for AAPI moderators for DNC-sponsored events in the future.
“As I have said, with AAPIs being central to the presidential race, it is only fair that they be represented on the debate stage, and ensuring that they are would rightly recognize the increased influence that Asian American and Pacific Islanders will have in the upcoming elections,” said Meng. “The debate stage must also reflect the diverse population of our country and that includes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I remain hopeful that at least one DNC-sponsored presidential debate will feature an AAPI moderator.”
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon will conduct the interviews with two candidates at different time slots from 5 p.m. to 11:20 p.m.
Tulsi Gabbard, the lone American of Pacific Island descent was knocked out of the race due to the Democratic National Committee’s polling criteria.
Constantinides holds out hope that the town hall will take place somewhere more appropriate.
“My hope is that CNN makes the right choice and holds this town hall away from the gilded towers of Hudson Yards. Again, we’ve got the venues, the access, and the people right here in the borough of Queens,” said Constantinides.
This story was updated to include U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s comments on AAPI representation on Aug. 29th.