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Zephyr Teachout's Responses to DFNYC's 2014 Candidate Questionnaire

Zephyr Teachout

Candidate for Governor of New York

2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire

1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)

This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.

Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?

YES

Yes. The way to fix the broken system is to provide public financing for all statewide and legislative elections. In New York City and Connecticut, public funding has increased the influence of voters and small donors, diversified who contributes, and enabled a greater variety of candidates to run for office. Already, public funding has empowered middle class families to shape

policy, achieving reforms like paid sick days, and empowered more women and minorities to stand as candidates. Public funding of elections will bring us closer to achieving real democracy.

What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?

Contribution limits are crucial to fighting real and perceived corruption. The devastating impact of this case will be to further amplify our State’s problem with money in politics. Barring the passage of publicly financed elections and increased regulations for state party housekeeping accounts New Yorkers’ faith in our elected representatives.


What is your opinion of Governor Cuomo’s actions toward the Moreland Commission?

Governor Cuomo should never have disbanded the Moreland Commission. His decision to close down a public investigation into corruption is deeply disturbing. His justification for it – that negotiations with lawmakers in closed discussions had rendered the Commission obsolete – reveals how little respect the Governor holds for the public and for public accountability. His actions squandered a huge opportunity to bring meaningful change to Albany. Instead, Governor Cuomo has reinforced and replicated existing corruption.     

If Governor Cuomo directed or knew about Larry Schwartz’ actions, the Governor should resign. At the very least Schwartz should be fired. It’s hard to believe that Schwartz was not acting with the Governor’s knowledge.




2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development

Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?

I’m a property law professor. I strongly favor the repeal of the Urstadt law and believe in some degree of local control. The City Council and Mayor should have the authority to set housing laws.  I also support rent stabilization and rent control laws.


3. Universal Pre-K & After-School

Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City.   Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs?

Yes. We live in an exceptional state in one of the greatest cities in the world. As such, everyone should pay their fair share to enjoy these privileges. I support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to raise marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of New York City to support this program.


4. Teacher Evaluation

New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers.  What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?

a) Improvement in student test scores
b) Professional observations by other teachers
c) Student surveys
d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree
e) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals
f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.


The over reliance on high stakes testing is problematic. Instead, we should be taking steps that keep good teachers in the classroom. There is no evidence to support the idea that basing teacher evaluations on test scores is educationally valid and I have a great deal of concern that this practice will encourage educators to simply teach-to-the-test. The primary objective of teacher evaluations should be to improve the quality of teaching. There is clear evidence that the most effective way to do this is to create a collaborative climate within schools, not a competitive climate between teachers. To facilitate this teacher mentoring programs are key which is why professional observations by other teachers are essential to effective evaluations. Principal observations are important. One positive feedback available from teachers regarding the new evaluation system is that the in depth interaction between principals and teachers is a valuable professional experience.  Thorough interactions of this type, both between principals and teachers and between teacher mentors and teachers who are new or struggling are important to improving the quality of teaching and to retaining teachers.  Student surveys can also make a valuable contribution to the teacher evaluation process--particularly if the focus is on aiding teachers to improve their craft. The entire issue of teacher evaluations has to be seen in a larger context where blaming teachers for the challenges our schools face is part of a larger political agenda on education reform.


5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now).  The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg.  

When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes.
Do you favor:

• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,

• Renewing mayoral control as is,
• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board,
• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.


One of the current parts of mayoral control that has caused the most controversy is the public hearing process. When the DOE proposes a change to a school or school building (co-location of a charter school, approval of a new school, phase out or "closing" of a school deemed to be failing), there is a joint public hearing (a "JFH") at the school building, where parents, teachers, students and other community members

can voice their concerns. But the ultimate vote is later, with the city-wide Panel for Education Policy (the "PEP"), a Board of appointees from the Mayor's Office and the Borough Presidents' Office. Critics say far from being a democratic process, the structure of the PEP and its hearings make it essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the DOE has already decided. Even some supporters of mayoral control have conceded this point and found PEP hearings to be mostly a waste of time for all parties involved.  On the one hand, government officials need to plan and make decisions about schools and buildings in a timely, efficient matter.  On the other hand, important decisions about schools should have a public hearing process and be made with community input.   What are your ideas for balancing these interests, specifically in terms of changing the mayoral control legislation?


Under Mayor Bloomberg the PEP was in fact a rubber stamp, it voted with Bloomberg 100% of the time. The process of the PEP votes was essentially a meaningless charade. The only time the PEP was prepared to vote against the Mayor he fired several at will PEP members before the vote in order to secure the outcome he desired. New York City has the most extreme form of Mayoral Control in the country. There are reasons for optimism under Mayor de Blasio in that he has appointed educators and parents to the PEP who have real connections to local communities and he has pledged to let them make independent decisions. However, the PEP should have fixed terms to ensure that no matter who appoints them they can make independent decisions. It is important to remember that while Mayor Bloomberg named this panel as the PEP under state law it is actually the school board for the City of New York and it should have all the powers of a school board. School closings and co-locations should be significantly curtailed compared to what happened under Mayor Bloomberg. School closings should be a course of last resort rather than an educational strategy and co-locations that are hostile to existing schools should not be allowed. The Community Education Councils are the bodies you refer to which are responsible for the Joint Public Hearings along with the DOE. The CECs are currently powerless bodies that are supposed to give parents voice, but do not have any structural power. The CECs should have the power to reject closing and co-locations in schools in their districts.  This is the only way to ensure that local parents have an actual voice in decision making. In 2014 there were policy changes that are directly relevant to mayoral control. Specifically the state mandated that in New York City if charter schools request a co-location then the City either must provide that co-location or must pay rent for that charter school in other space. This provision, which does not apply to any other locality in the state, should be repealed as part of the renewal of school governance laws in 2015.  School governance is important, however, there have been multiple forms of governance in NYC over time. In fact there was a different form of mayoral control over 100 years ago, there has been a central school board that was not controlled by the mayor and there has been 32 locally elected school boards. Each system had flaws in terms of the education of the students. While I have not fully developed all of my positions on this, I do believe that the 2015 school governance legislation should address key educational strategies which may prove more important than governance itself. I would be interested in requirements that make the NYC DOE address overcrowding and require adequate resource investment and supports in struggling schools for instance. The focus on governance process sometimes overwhelms the need to focus on educational strategies--both are important.

6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.

The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.

a. Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York?  NO
b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York? NO
c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?


Common Core was a top-down approach to a deeply complex problem; there are no silver bullets in education reform. As a lawyer and activist, I participate in press events and rallies to highlight concerns around Common Core. As Governor, I would take what I have learned from families and concerned citizens at these events to reform Common Core for the betterment of New  York State’s children.  To do this properly it is essential that classroom educators, school administrators, parents and possibly even students are engaged in the development of standards and curriculum. NYS has placed more focus on raising the difficulty of the tests than on raising the quality of curriculum and instruction. If we are going to provide a higher standard of education, we cannot do that by simply making tests harder and expecting more of educators and students. We need to invest in our schools. New York has one of the greatest gaps in the inequity of school funding in the entire nation. The state is obligated to fulfill the Campaign for Fiscal Equity funding in order to begin closing this gap. Governor Cuomo has made no effort to do so. I would make fair and adequate school funding a top priority so we can get past the rhetoric of higher standards and actually provide a higher quality education particularly in poor communities which have suffered from decades of underfunded schools.


7. Taxes:  City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles.

New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC.

Would you vote to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)?

I’m not sure. It’s a complicated issue. I would do a comprehensive review of taxation and then carefully think about how to allocate the cost.

Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax? YES

Do you support progressive taxation? YES

Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both? YES. I support this both because it will make our markets more fair - by discouraging predatory high frequency trading - and could generate significant revenue in

8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage

New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo .  The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.  The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that.  Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage.  Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips.  We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.  Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?

Yes, I support Senator Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage as well as legislation that would give localities control to set the minimum wage above the state level, not below. New York is an extraordinary state, and we should have an economy that matches our capacity. Yet Governor Cuomo’s economy works primarily for a few big businesses, one that enriches the rich and strangles opportunities for the rest of us. Extreme consolidation has enabled a few giants to hike prices, squeeze supply, and unfairly trample competitors. The game is rigged, and the evidence is all around us. We face staggering inequality of wealth and opportunity, at levels unseen since the Gilded Age. Unemployment continues to soar even as corporate profits are booming. I am completely committed to local wage authorization. I strongly support paid sick days and paid family leave insurance, so that no parent has to choose between paying the bills and nursing a sick child. I support making it easier for workers to unionize. If a banker can join his ten friends to form a corporation, why should it be any harder for a factory worker to join his ten buddies to form a union?


9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.

a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents.  There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx.  Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment.  For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center.  What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?

This is a huge issue. I would push to eliminate subsidies that incentivize costly high rise buildings at the expense or to the exclusion of affordable housing. One of the best ways to increase affordable housing is to hold on to the affordable housing we have in New York. This means strong laws at the state level that are focused on middle and working class tenants and homeowners, not landlords, real estate developers and banks. I will also work with local officials to bring more resources and a better use of resources to NYCHA so that the problems facing residents can be fixed efficiently and safely.

b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City.  However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City.  
What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures?

I am in support of a public works program that would retrofit existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. We can accomplish this through a combination of mandates, public investments, and incentives should be implemented to ensure our buildings are more energy efficient.

c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings.  Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built

In theory, yes. But I would have to learn more about the issue and existing policy proposals to understand if there might be other costs to these changes in zoning law.

d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law?  Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.  But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.

I support the Scaffold law. It protects some of our most vulnerable workers. Everyone deserves the right to a safe and healthy work environment. While we cannot protect construction workers against all accidents we must offer workers the legal protection they deserve by holding those responsible accountable.

10. Albany Corruption

Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted.   What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue?

First and foremost, New York state should pass a publicly financed elections system modeled after New York City’s. Below is a starting list of policies as Governor I would focus on enacting

  • Empower the Attorney General to prosecute public corruption cases, especially those involving election law

  • Webcast all legislative proceedings for both houses

  • Increase disclosure and itemization of discretionary funds, such as lump sum funds and member items, and require reporting on the funds’ usage

  • Clarify the definition of coordination between candidates and political committees to ensure proper reporting

  • Require two periodic campaign finance reports be filed during the session

  • Close soft money loopholes - transfers from party committees to candidates should be limited to twice the limit that is set for individual contributors

  • Restrict campaign contributions from those who do business with the state and registered lobbyists


11. Legalization of Marijuana.

Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes?  Recreational?  Both?

I support the legalization of marijuana. At a minimum, New York State must immediately decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession, on the path to eventual legalization. This would drastically reduce the number of marijuana arrests, an overwhelming percent of which are just for possession. Worse, these arrests disproportionately target young African-Americans and Latinos.

These arrests cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually and needlessly introduce young people to the criminal justice system while saddling them with permanent criminal records. Being stigmatized this way has huge long-term consequences, making it far harder to find a job or get into school. We should be expanding opportunities for young blacks and Latinos rather than foreclosing them. Ending arrests for 15 grams or less of marijuana would help ensure our criminal justice system doesn’t lock up thousands of our young men for petty crimes. We should support legislation that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana, and should propose a system to regulate and tax marijuana in ways similar to how state law treats alcohol. This new approach would end decades of costly and counterproductive policies that reinforce racially discriminatory outcomes and foreclose promising futures.

12. Police Militarization


Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)  

 a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?

I have called for a review by the Superintendent of Police and chairs of the Judiciary committees into what form militarization has taken in NY.

 b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)? Yes.


13. Vision Zero

Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?  
Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights?  

Cities should have much more autonomy, and power should be devolved from Albany.


The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast.  However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?

We have not yet done a policy paper on this yet. I would need to learn more about the issue before prescribing a policy.


14. Lightening Round:

Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)

Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose?

YES

Marriage Equality:  Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality?

YES

Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments?

YES

Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood?

NO.

Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.)

     YES

~~~

These are the responses of Zephyr Teachout to our 2014 DFNYC questionnaire. To read the responses of her opponent in the Democratic primary, incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo, click here.

Kathy Hochul's Responses to DFNYC's 2014 Candidate Questionnaire

 

Kathy Hochul

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York

2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire

 

1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)

This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.  

Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?  

Yes. 

What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?  

 

I view the McCutcheon decision as one of several that weaken campaign finance regulations.  I support campaign finance reform including public funding of campaigns and enhanced disclosure requirements.

 

What is your opinion of Governor Cuomo’s actions toward the Moreland Commission?  

 

2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development

Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?  

 

I come from a part of the state where the cost of housing is a fraction of that in New York City, and a small fraction at that.  That reality underscores the importance of government's role in ensuring affordable housing options in a place where in the absence of strong rent regulations, tens of thousands or more would be priced out of the market.   I support rent stabilization and rent control laws.  In general I favor laws that ensure that affordable housing options be available for New Yorkers.  I applaud the Governor for strengthening the state's rent laws and creating a Tenant Protection Unit in the Department of Housing and Community Renewal.

 

3. Universal Pre-K & After-School

Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City.   Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs?

 

I support universal Pre- Kindergarten.  In Congress, I promoted tax fairness and opposed the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy.  I am willing to work with the Governor to explore additional ways to increase resources for pre-K programs statewide.

  

4. Teacher Evaluation

New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers.  What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?

a) Improvement in student test scores b) Professional observations by other teachers c) Student surveys d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.

 

Agree with the concept of using multiple measures to evaluate teachers.  I believe Governor Cuomo's Annual Professional Performance Review Plan teacher evaluation system successfully built on that idea.  

 

5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now).  The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg.  

When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes. Do you favor:

• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,

• Renewing mayoral control as is,• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.

 

One of the current parts of mayoral control that has caused the most controversy is the public hearing process. When the DOE proposes a change to a school or school building (co-location of a charter school, approval of a new school, phase out or "closing" of a school deemed to be failing), there is a joint public hearing (a "JFH") at the school building, where parents, teachers, students and other community members can voice their concerns. But the ultimate vote is later, with the city-wide Panel for Education Policy (the "PEP"), a Board of appointees from the Mayor's Office and the Borough Presidents' Office. Critics say far from being a democratic process, the structure of the PEP and its hearings make it essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the DOE has already decided. Even some supporters of mayoral control have conceded this point and found PEP hearings to be mostly a waste of time for all parties involved.  On the one hand, government officials need to plan and make decisions about schools and buildings in a timely, efficient matter.  On the other hand, important decisions about schools should have a public hearing process and be made with community input.   What are your ideas for balancing these interests, specifically in terms of changing the mayoral control legislation?

 

I am open to adjusting the laws pertaining to mayoral control.  I would want to review any specific proposals.

 

6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.

The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance. 

Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York?  b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York?  c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?

 

Despite its unsatisfactory rollout, I support the Common Core standards in New York.  New York students should be prepared to compete with students from anywhere else in the country and the world.  

 

7. Taxes:  City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles. 

New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC. 

Would you vote to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)? 

Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax? 

Do you support progressive taxation? 

Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both?

 

I support progressive taxation.  In Congress I advocated for extending middle class tax cuts while allowing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.  I took this stand as a Democrat representing a highly Republican district.    I would review along with the Governor individual proposals on a case by case basis, but my past record speaks to my mindset and priorities on this topic.

 

8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage

New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.  The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that.  Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wageAdvocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips.  We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.  Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?

 

I have always supported increasing the minimum wage.  A reasonable minimum wage not only increases the standard of living for those earning the minimum wage and is a matter of basic fairness.  The increase passed by the Governor and Legislature will increase through the end of 2015.  I would gladly work with the Governor to look at other ways to promote fair wages.

 

9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.

 a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents.  There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx.  Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment.  For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center.  What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that as part of the plan to accelerate affordable housing construction at the site, the City’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will provide financial support to ensure the delivery of two 100% affordable housing buildings, totaling at least 590 units, and construction will begin by December 2014. The buildings will accommodate a broader range of family incomes—including those with very low incomes—and feature a greater mix of family-sized units that reflect the community’s needs. Consistent with its affordable housing plan’s commitment to maximize the returns on every dollar, the administration secured nearly twice as many units of affordable housing for its investment compared to the first building under construction at the Atlantic Yards site.

 

I view this issue as similar to the rent control issue- affordable housing is necessary for New York City to retain its diversity and is just plain fair.

 

 b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City.  However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City.  What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures?  

 

I support building green and applaud the Governor's Green bank program.   

 c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings.  Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?

 

Yes.

 d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law?  Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.  But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.

 

I support balancing the needs of business with those of working men and women whom the Scaffold law was designed to protect.  

 

10. Albany Corruption

Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted.  What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue? 

 

State ethics laws have been strengthened in recent years and state officials have received greater scrutiny by prosecutors, the press and the public.  The parade of legislators and state officials who have been arrested for corruption is embarrassing on the one hand, but also reassuring in the sense that the bad apples are having a harder time getting away with malfeasance.  Corruption is not necessarily worse than it has been in past years- laws are tougher and law enforcement is more reliable.  I would support still stronger laws.

 

11. Legalization of Marijuana.

Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes?  Recreational?  Both?

 

I agree with the recently passed medical marijuana law. 

 

12. Police Militarization.  

Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)  a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?   b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?

 

While not exactly the same situation, in Congress I defended the Muslim community when Republicans conducted a series of anti-terrorism hearings which unfairly cast all American Muslims in a suspicious l (or worse).  I would work with Governor Cuomo to explore ways to address police practices that reflect racial disparities.  I believe the Governor's past efforts to modify stop and frisk as well as bring party to the law regarding marijuana possession were sound, and I would work with him to further bring greater fairness to the law.

 

13. Vision Zero

Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?  Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights?  The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast.  However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?  

 

Yes.

 

14. Lightning Round:

Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)

Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose? Yes.

Marriage Equality:  Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality?  Yes.

Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments?  Yes   

Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood? No. 

Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.) Yes. 

 

Thank you! Please return your survey responses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Responses will be posted at the DFNYC website so that our members can read them to assist with their vote in our endorsement.

~~~

These are the responses of Kathy Hochul, candidate for Lt. Governor of the state of New York, to our 2014 issue questionnaire. To read the responses of her opponent Tim Wu, click here.

Adriano Espaillat's Responses to DFNYC's 2014 Questionnaire

Adriano Espaillat's Responses to our Issue Questionnaire

State Senate - Dist. 31 - Uptown & west side of Manhattan

2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire

 

1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)

This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.

   a.   Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?

Yes. I have been an outspoken advocate for campaign finance reform that includes a matching funds system and eliminates the “multiple LLC” loophole that has empowered the real estate industry at tenants’ and the general public’s expense.

   b.   What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?

The McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission verdict is a major setback for reducing the influence of money in politics; I strongly support measures to undo this perversion of the democratic system.

2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development

Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?

The 31st Senate District has more rent-stabilized units than any other district in New York City – I am proud to have the endorsement of Tenants PAC and committed safeguarding and expanding the emergency tenant protection act that has ensured affordable more than 2 million New Yorkers. I proudly support the repeal of both vacancy decontrol and the Urstadt Law; after it was revealed that 421-a tax breaks had been awarded to luxury developments targeted towards billionaires, I was the first elected official to call for their repeal.

Select news clips from my record on housing issues:

Espaillat Led the Charge for Repealing Tax Breaks Given to Luxury Housing for Billionaires. “A group of state lawmakers wants to undo legislation passed this year that singled out five luxury housing developments in Manhattan for property tax breaks. “Espaillat and Brad Hoylman, along with 10 other pols, sent Gov. Cuomo a letter Wednesday asking him to help repeal the controversial provision. Writing, “It is critical that we correct this outrageous symbol of waste and special interest privilege.” One of the five projects is One57, a 90-story luxury tower on W. 57th St. that reportedly sold two penthouses for $90 million each. [Daily News, 07/24/2013]

Espaillat Named “Democratic Pointman” to Renew Rent Laws in 2011. “Uptown state Sen. Adriano Espaillat is technically a freshman, but he has become the Democratic pointman in Albany's tug-of-war over rent regulations. The regs, which shelter more than 1 million apartments in the city from full market-rate rents, expire June 14…On the strength of his prior 14 years in the Assembly, Espaillat was tapped as the ranking minority Democrat on the Senate Housing Committee. And he's chief sponsor of the same tenant-friendly omnibus rent regulations bill passed three days ago by the Democratic Assembly.” [Daily News, 04/14/2011]

Espaillat Intervened on Behalf of Tenants Facing Unfair Rent Hikes. “State investigators are probing an uptown real estate mogul for hiking tenants’ rent — by double digits rates — sparking a fierce housing battle in Washington Heights. Residents reported their woes to state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights), who then contacted the state agency. ‘I’m excited that the state housing agency will be taking action in the near future,’ said Espaillat, who noted that 19 families were affected by the rent hike.” [NY Daily News, 1/15/14]

Espaillat Stood Up for Foreign-Born Tenants Facing Harassment and Intimidation. “A battle cry to mobilize uptown tenants against a disgusting rat problem has ignited a potential court fight to protect foreign-born residents from what they say are bullying tactics on the part of the landlord. Espaillat and Councilman Mark Levine fired off letters Monday to the state Tenant Protection Unit and federal Department of Housing and Urban Development asking the agencies to probe the allegations. “We cannot allow this discrimination to be tolerated,” the officials said. [Daily News,04/29/2014]

3. Universal Pre-K & After-School

Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City.   Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs? 

Yes, I strongly supported legislation creating a permanent UPK revenue stream by taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers, and will continue to do so. The $300 million we were able to secure this year was an incredible victory, but we must ensure this funding continues, and also allocate the companion afterschool funding the Mayor called.

4. Teacher Evaluation

New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers.  What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?

   a)   Improvement in student test scores

   b) Professional observations by other teachers

   c) Student surveys

   d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree

   e) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals

   f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.

I have strong reservations over the use of test scores for assessment purposes that do not take into account student composition, including English Language Learners, and student requiring Individual Learning Plans. Doing so encourages schools to game the system, and focus on securing preferred students instead of ensuring all students’ needs are addressed.

In particular, I have continually cited the disproportionally small enrollment ELLs in New York City charter schools as a problem that must be addressed; have stated that until this enrollment gap is closed, their effectiveness cannot be fairly measured.

I support a variety of assessment methods – but I strongly value peer assessment, and the evaluations performed by professional educators. I am proud to have the support of the United Federation of Teachers in this campaign, and I will continue to work with them to fight for appropriate assessment standards that do not penalize teachers for taking on the challenge of providing an urban education in difficult circumstances.

 

5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now).  The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg. 

When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes.

  a. Do you favor:

• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,

• Renewing mayoral control as is,

• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or

• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.

 

I am committed to using the Mayoral Control reauthorization process to increase parental and community stakeholder power. This includes expanding the role of district CEC and individual School Leadership Teams, particularly on portfolio planning and zoning issues where parents have struggled to obtain accurate growth projections from DOE.

 

6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.

The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.

   a.   Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York?

   b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York?

   c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?

Common Core’s implementation has been disastrous on many fronts: from poor-quality Spanish language materials, to inadequate community outreach and explanation, to the insufficient training that was provided to teachers and educators. I have supported a moratorium on the use of Common Core assessments unlike our community is satisfied it has been given proper resources for this transition. I have specifically raised the quality of non-English language materials issue with SED.

More broadly, I was a staunch supporter of the successful push to reign in the rising and excessive amount of standardized testing that New York kids are subjected to, which interrupts classroom learning, by banning testing in grades kindergarten through second grade.

 

7. Taxes:  City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles. 

New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC.

  1. Would you vote to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)? Yes.
  2. Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax? Yes.
  3. Do you support progressive taxation? Yes.
  4. Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both? Yes. I am on record as supporting the “Robin Hood Tax” bill proposed by Congressman Keith Ellison. In the 2014 13th Congressional District primary, I was the first candidate to support this proposal, and was heartened that other candidates changed their position in response to my statement of support.

8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage

New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo .  The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.  The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that.  Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage.  Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips.  We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.  Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?

 

Yes. I have been a leader within the Democratic Conference in the fight for minimum wage, and was the first to introduce legislation permitting New York City to set its own minimum wage. It is essential that this be indexed to inflation, so its purchasing power does not erode over time.

9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.

 a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents.  There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx.  Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment.  For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center.  What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?

I support the push towards an 80/20 development model; closing a variety of loopholes that developers have used to shirk their responsibilities. This year, I proposed an Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) reform plan to shift public subsidies away from big box stores and developments like East River Plaza (in East Harlem, a Bruce Ratner project) towards local small businesses and employers paying good wages and benefits.

I opposed the West Side Stadium project in Manhattan. In contrast, my opponent strongly supported it when he was in the City Council.

 b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City.  However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City. What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures?

A critical way to achieve energy efficiency is through transit-oriented development, to ensure that development occurs near public transportation; and expanding transit options in areas within rising population density. I support a concentrated push for this across the state. I have also pushed to maintain and expand weatherization subsidies, particularly for low-income households and neighborhoods.

 c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings. 

Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?

Existing laws regulating “sliver buildings” prevent blighted conditions that existed throughout New York’s history and blocked low-income homes from sufficient light exposure. The limitations against conditions like this are sensible.

 

 d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law?  Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.  But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.

I do not support amending the Scaffold Law; viable support for this issue does not currently exist within the legislature.

 

10. Albany Corruption

Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted. What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue?

Enacting sweeping campaign finance reform is a critical step for eliminating corruption reducing the influence of special interests in Albany. I have also supported making the NYS Legislature a full time job, as I interpret it to be, to eliminate conflicts of interest.

11. Legalization of Marijuana.

Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes?  Recreational?  Both?

I have supported and voted for medical marijuana legislation this year; I continue to support marijuana decriminalization.

12. Police Militarization

Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)  

 

a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?

I have been a persistent critic of counterproductive policing tactics primarily used under the previous mayoral administration, that violated civil liberties, including stop and frisk and the unrestricted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities. I started my career as a NYPD Precinct Community Council Chair, and I have consistently forged working partnerships between Upper Manhattan communities and the NYPD, through effective collaboration on local issues and sought consensus whenever possible.

 

  b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?

 

Yes. Our Police Department must be given all the resources it needs to be successful, and ensure the well being of its officers. But this does not require the use decommissioned military equipment; I would support using the legislative and budget process to codify this protection.

 

13. Vision Zero

Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?

Yes, and I began sponsoring legislation in 2013 to grant New York City permanent home rule over speed and red light camera governance, so the city does not need state approval for basic lifesaving measures.

I was an early supporter of Vision Zero, and have been endorsed by StreetsPAC in this campaign.

 

Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights? 

Yes, I have been a co-sponsor these initiatives, including the 2013 bill creating the speed camera pilot program, and this year’s successful push to reduce the city speed limit.

The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast.  However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?

I support an “all hands on deck” approach to reducing the disproportionately high rates of traffic violence in Upper Manhattan and the West Side. I have proposed and supported slow zones, pedestrian plazas, street redesigns, speed cameras. And I believe that new regulations require enforcement to be successful; ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

14. Lightening Round:

Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)

 

  1. Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose? Yes.
  2. Marriage Equality:  Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality? Yes, I have consistently voted for marriage equality legislation since its first Assembly floor vote in 2007, and worked to build support within the Latino community in the run-up to the successful 2011 Senate vote.
  3. Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments? Yes.
  4. Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood? No!
  5. Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.) I support net neutrality, and will continue to state this publicly.

 

These are the responses from Adriano Espaillat, incumbent State Senator in the 31st District. To read the responses of his opponent, former City Councilmember Robert Jackson, click here.

Tim Wu's Responses to DFNYC's 2014 Candidate Questionnaire

Tim Wu

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York

2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire

 

1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)

This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded. 

  1. Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?

    Yes!  
  2. What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns? 

    Wrongly decided and in my view a subversion of the First Amendment’s purpose. I have strong feelings about these kind of uses of the First Amendment and have written them at some length.   The basic impact, in my view, is to legalize corruption; and ensure that donors preferences, more than public preferences, will determine policy in New York. 
  3. What is your opinion of Governor Cuomo’s actions toward the Moreland Commission?

I think steering the Commission away from donors and allies was unethical, and as I’ve stated to the press, I believe actions by members of his staff might have been illegal under state law, as a solicitation of an abuse of government process.

 

2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development

Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?

            Yes.  I live in Chelsea, Manhattan amidst rent controlled housing and it makes the neighborhood much more diverse and interesting.   While I’m not in a position to enforce the relevant laws, I should say I am in general extremely annoyed by instances where Albany has taken too much control over issues that rightly belong to New York city, and I count the Urstadt law as among them.

3. Universal Pre-K & After-School

Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City.   Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs?

            Yes.   Once again, a city issue that the state has wrongly taken on itself.

 

4. Teacher Evaluation

New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers.  What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?

a) Improvement in student test scores

b) Professional observations by other teachers

c) Student surveys

d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree

e) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals

f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.

I can’t say this is an area of real expertise for me, but based on my experience as a Professor, I feel that the best criteria are professional observation, student surveys, and classroom observation.   Factors (a) is not appropriate; factor (f) is disrespectful, and factor (d) is irrelevant as compared with performance.

 

5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now).  The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg.  

  1. When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes.
  1. Do you favor:

• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,

• Renewing mayoral control as is,

• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or

• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.

I favor renewing mayoral control as is.

 

One of the current parts of mayoral control that has caused the most controversy is the public hearing process. When the DOE proposes a change to a school or school building (co-location of a charter school, approval of a new school, phase out or "closing" of a school deemed to be failing), there is a joint public hearing (a "JFH") at the school building, where parents, teachers, students and other community members can voice their concerns. But the ultimate vote is later, with the city-wide Panel for Education Policy (the "PEP"), a Board of appointees from the Mayor's Office and the Borough Presidents' Office. Critics say far from being a democratic process, the structure of the PEP and its hearings make it essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the DOE has already decided. Even some supporters of mayoral control have conceded this point and found PEP hearings to be mostly a waste of time for all parties involved.  On the one hand, government officials need to plan and make decisions about schools and buildings in a timely, efficient matter.  On the other hand, important decisions about schools should have a public hearing process and be made with community input.   What are your ideas for balancing these interests, specifically in terms of changing the mayoral control legislation?

            As presented, this is a tricky issue that I admit I do not have direct experience with.   I generally believe that these decisions need to have a public hearing process as you describe.   All this tends to suggest that the structure of the PEP is wrong, and that it needs to be something other than a rubber stamp.

6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.

The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.

 a. Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York?

 

            No.    I think schools should be free to borrow from Common Core standards if they actually like them, but I don’t think they should be mandatory.

 b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York?

No.  While I have not personally been exposed to teachings using the materials, I believe what I’ve read about the overwhelming suggestion that they have not been well implemented.

 c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?

I would support any efforts to allow schools more freedom to decide whether or not to adhere to Common Core standards.

 

7. Taxes:  City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles. 

New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC.

  1. Would you vote to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)?

            Of course.

 

  1. Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax?

    Of course!
  2. Do you support progressive taxation?

    Of course!
  3. Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both?

    The United States actually has a federal financial transaction tax on sales of stock, which was once higher than it was now; I would restore 1914-1965 levels, mainly for raising revenue.

8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage

New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo .  The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.  The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that.  Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage.  Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips.  We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.  Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?

Yes. 

9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.

 a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents.  There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx.  Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment.  For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center.  What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?

 

I’m not sure the question is phrased exactly as it was meant to be, but I take it you mean to ask what we can do to prevent developers from profiting at the expense of all New Yorkers.  

I generally think that we are no longer living in the New York of the 1970s, which was desperately in need of redevelopment and investment, and we should stop thinking that we need to be at the mercy at a few big developers to allow the city to thrive.   Among other things, while I’m not running for City Council, it strikes me as obvious that the City Council should consider not just conditioning development, but outright blocking more proposals if it is not believed that the developer will actually keep their promises.

 

 b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City.  However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City.  What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures? 

There are many ways to incentivize the building of green structures; among them, by making sure that buildings and developers fully internalize the costs of the energy their businesses use.    I have some doubts about using tax subsidies to encourage green buildings, based on the danger of abuse; but if done properly, tax  credits are the obvious other choice.

 c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings. 

Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?

Yes.

 d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law?  Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.  But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.

I generally support the Scaffold Law based on the tort principle of the “cheapest cost avoider.”  However, I would not be opposed to some effort to come up with a workers compensation scheme that made the projected costs of accident slightly more predictable.

10. Albany Corruption

Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted. 

What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue? 

            I could write many pages about this, and in fact Zephyr already has.   I think you’ll have to settle for the highlights.   They would include:

            -           State Constitutional reform, which would reconsider the legislature, and potentially abolish one of the two chambers, and make the remaining chamber a better-paid and full-time position that might attract the best qualified candidates, as opposed to those looking to profit from their position.

            -           Public financing of elections

            -           Enforcement of the election and campaign finance laws

            -           Potentially, a permanent version of the Moreland Commission, or a periodic version (ever few years) with full powers to refer offenders to criminal trials

            -           Stronger abuse of process laws

            -           Stronger revolving door laws that remove the incentive to treat government as a stepping stone to lucrative positions

           

 

11. Legalization of Marijuana.

Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes?  Recreational?  Both?

Both, though in a phased-in manner.  I also am not happy with the version of the medical marijuana law that passed this year.

12. Police Militarization

Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)  

 

  a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?

I believe in body-cameras for police, and also, as the measure below describing, declining to equip a police force with military weapons and equipment.

 

  b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?

I hate the militarization of the various American police forces and consider it a contradiction of the revolutionary spirit.  It is embarrassing that we should allow such a thing when, in the country we rebelled against, the police force does not even carry guns!

Long story short: yes.   Things have gone too far in this direction.

 

13. Vision Zero

Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?

Of course.

 

Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights? 

The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast.  However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?

            This is a serious issue and I should add that, as a regular bicycle rider, I am also concerned about cyclist deaths as well as pedestrian deaths.

            While I generally think it is a good idea to lower speed limits and enforce the laws more strongly, I do reach certain limit.  It seems hard to be concerned with over-policing on the one hand, and then create systems that allow drivers to be arrested willy-nilly, or represent an excessive technological instrusion (many technologies may not work as well as described).   I am open to thinking this issue through because I think it is so interesting.

I also look forward to the day that only electric cars are allowed within New York – it will be much quieter!

 

14. Lightening Round:

Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)

 

  1. Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose?

Yes

2. Marriage Equality:  Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality?

Yes

3. Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments?

Yes

4. Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood?

I believe that the corporate use of the Bill of Rights is repugnant to the Constitution.

5. Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.)

Do I support it? I created the phrase! So yes, and I’ve already filed multiple comments at the FCC and made repeated ex parte appearances there.

~~~

These are the responses of Tim Wu, candidate for New York State Lt. Governor. To read the responses of is opponent, Kathy Hochul, click here.

Robert Jackson's Responses to DFNYC's 2014 Candidate Questionnaire

Robert Jackson, former City Councilmember

Candidate for State Senate - Dist. 31 - Uptown & west side of Manhattan

2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire

1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)

This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.

   a. Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?

Yes.

   b. What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns? 

  It doesn’t really effect the need to set real limits on contributions and closing corporate subsidiary and LLC loopholes.

   c. What is your opinion of Governor Cuomo’s actions toward the Moreland Commission?

Responses: It should not have been disbanded.

Only by taking the money out of politics can the people get their government back. My five point plan includes: Establishing a public financing program modeled on the successful NYC program; Setting real limits on contributions and closing corporate subsidiary and LLC loopholes; Restricting fundraising during the legislative session, instituting fixed limits on those doing business with the government; Increasing reporting, transparency and enforcement; Prohibiting the use of campaign funds.

 

2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development

Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?

Response: We must preserve the affordable housing we have, particularly through strengthening rent laws, repealing vacancy decontrol and the Urstadt law, and providing resources and representation to threatened tenants.. We must fix-up existing housing, particularly through better management of NYCHA. And we must build new housing, through inclusionary zoning and innovative approaches like the effort I lead to build the Sugar Hill project.

3. Universal Pre-K & After-School

Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City.   Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs? 

Response: I support universal pre-K, worked on the Council to successfully create new Pre-K openings and believe that the City should be able to have a dedicated tax.

4. Teacher Evaluation

New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers.  What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?

a)   Improvement in student test scores b) Professional observations by other teachersc) Student surveysd) Whether the teacher has an advanced degreee) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionalsf) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.

Response: I support the recent legislative agreement saying teachers rated ineffective based on state Common Core tests this year or next will not face negative consequences. Teacher evaluation should be geared to improving teaching and student outcomes, not based on student test scores alone. We must move away from all these high stakes testing. The best evaluators are fellow teachers who participate in a collaborative process of reviewing student work, improving lessons and fine-tuning instruction. The measures of teacher success are well-educated students. We must have a more broad-based measure of teacher effectiveness.

 

5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now).  The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg. 

     a. When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes. Do you favor:

• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,

• Renewing mayoral control as is,

• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or

• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.

     b. Additionally, one of the current parts of mayoral control that has caused the most controversy is the public hearing process. When the DOE proposes a change to a school or school building (co-location of a charter school, approval of a new school, phase out or "closing" of a school deemed to be failing), there is a joint public hearing (a "JFH") at the school building, where parents, teachers, students and other community members can voice their concerns. But the ultimate vote is later, with the city-wide Panel for Education Policy (the "PEP"), a Board of appointees from the Mayor's Office and the Borough Presidents' Office. Critics say far from being a democratic process, the structure of the PEP and its hearings make it essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the DOE has already decided. Even some supporters of mayoral control have conceded this point and found PEP hearings to be mostly a waste of time for all parties involved.  On the one hand, government officials need to plan and make decisions about schools and buildings in a timely, efficient matter.  On the other hand, important decisions about schools should have a public hearing process and be made with community input.   What are your ideas for balancing these interests, specifically in terms of changing the mayoral control legislation?

Response: I oppose Mayoral control. Under Bloomberg Mayoral Control, parents, teachers and students were shut out of the decision making process and it was more a “do as we say [not as we do]” attitude and system.  We need a governance system that respects the people directly impacted and involves them as stakeholders in shaping important educational decisions.

 

6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.

The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.

  a. Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York? 

  b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York? 

  c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?

Responses: While I'm generally in support of common core standards, New York's implementation has been terrible. Before the test go into effect, we must first get teachers the curriculum and materials they need to help their students succeed.

 

7. Taxes:  City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles. 

New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC.

   a. Would you vote to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)?

Yes, and was mistake of my opponent to vote to repeal the commuter tax. His vote has cost NYC $9.7 billion paid by commuters that could help fund our schools, the arts and essential services.

   b. Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax?

Yes.

   c.  Do you support progressive taxation?

Yes.

   d. Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both?

Yes.

 

8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage

New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo.  The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.  The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that.  Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage.  Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips.  We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.  Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?

Response: Yes, I support the statewide increase in minimum wage, and giving local municipalities the power to further increase their wages. I support the Squadron bill.

9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.

 a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents.  There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx.  Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment.  For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center.  What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?

 

 b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City.  However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City.  What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures? Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings.  Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?

Response: Manhattan will continue to grow, but it is important that it grows in the right way that protects neighborhoods, promotes diversity and sustainability, ensures more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is achieved and protects existing residents. Instead of giving large tax breaks to luxury developments, we should be using that money to create affordable and sustainable housing. Instead of sitting back and letting Albany control our housing decisions, we must fight for Home Rule, repeal of the Urstadt Law and ending vacancy destabilization. Instead of selling off public land wherever he can find it for luxury development, we should be more concerned with the existing residents. And instead of letting developers off the hook when they fail to meet their commitments, we should be going after them to claw back the benefits they received.

    c. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law?  Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.  But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.

Response: We need the Scaffold Law to help level the playing field and protect workers.

 

10. Albany Corruption

Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted.  What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue? 

Elected officials must be role models and held to higher standards. We need more transparency and there should be no tolerance for misconduct. Public officials must set a positive example. I'm proud of who I am and what I have done. That's why I always wore a button, so people can come up to me and tell me what is on their mind. And I'm proud that I've built a record of integrity

11. Legalization of Marijuana.

Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes?  Recreational?  Both?

Both.

12. Police Militarization

Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)    a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?   b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?

Response: As Chair of the Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, I took the lead advocating an end to “Stop and Frisk”  as it was performed and that the Department’s own numbers showed that hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year were being stopped, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

13. Vision Zero

Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?  Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights?  The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast.  However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?

Response: Through neighborhood based traffic initiatives, we must make the streets safe for all. It means more enforcement, more education and more cooperation and understanding by pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

14. Lightening Round:

Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)

  1. Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose? Yes
  2. Marriage Equality:  Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality? Yes. And Yes.
  3. Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments? Yes.
  4. Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood? No.
  5. Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.) Yes.

These are the responses of former Councilmember Robert Jackson, candidate for state senate in District 31. To read the responses of his opponent, Adriano Espaillat, click here.

Contact Information

Email: info -at- dfnyc.org
   
   
   

 

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